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Sunday, June 21, 2009

What Are Educators Saying About the Tuition Crisis? Part I


I was curious what educators might, or might not, be saying about the tuition issues facing schools and families today. So I headed over to Lookjed, a forum for Jewish educators. The subject of the proposed "no frills" school had come up, and it appears that not one educator thought that the idea was actually one that could be put into practice successfully. Reading the comments was interesting because it allowed me, as a parent, to look inside the mind of administrators/educators.

I picked out the following two posts from Rabbi Teitz of JEC in Elizabeth, NJ because I found them the most interesting/revealing. The first reads as a conversation between administration and parents. The second is the same administrator speaking from the perspective of staff. I will post that one shortly after I post this first comment. I have put a small number of comments in orange.

Post 1
Allow me to put the matter into very specific terms.

In my school we have around 900 students, preK-12. Our salary budget is around $10,000,000, or about 83% of our $12,000,000 budget. [Per student cost: approx. $13,333. Website gives no information that I can find on tuition schedules at JEC (Elizabeth, NJ).]

An across-the-board 3% increase in salary, which is hardly huge, translates into $300,000+ additional expense (the extra is the 7.65% FICA and Medicare tax, about $23,000, which is a hidden factor but adds up).

Assuming a balanced budget (and even if not balanced, the cash flow must be maintained), we need to find another ~$325,000 to cover the raise. [I believe a balanced budget is the only way to maintain cash flow unless there are significant reserves or taking on debt is a consideration].

Dividing that out over the 900 students means raising tuition by $360 per student. Factor in scholarships (and 20% scholarship is also not unheard of) and the real increase has to approach $450 per student. [I think that more than 1/2 the tuition issue can be summed up right here. Those who can carry are being asked to carry more and more. But, eventually some of those parents need carried too].

And this is just to give the teachers a 3% raise. [I'm a bit confused why a potential across-the-board raise is being discussed while the average parental income is falling].

We're not factoring in overhead, programs, etc. Cutting programs is enticing, as it can be lead to cutting staff positions. But as others have mentioned, do we cut our social worker or learning lab staff? The reality is that school staffs are significantly larger than they were even a decade or two ago. We hope that the additional staff improves our product. I would not risk cutting the programs to find out.

One suggestion that I heard was to not give across the board raises. There are certainly staff members, teachers and administrators, who are earning well above what our parents earn, especially when looked at on an hourly basis. Does everyone need an annual increase? While this is not as difficult a matter as merit pay, which has yet to find a way to judge the full value of a teacher's input into the growth of a student, one has to wonder how we would decide who needs the money most. Do we ask staff to justify their need for a raise, as we ask parents to justify their need for a scholarship? I'm sure many parents would see poetic justice in that arrangement - having teachers submit their income and expenses to a group of parents for them to divide the fixed pot of tuition dollars allocated to salaries. [Wages are normally set by the market, not by the "needs" of the employee. Merit pay is something difficult to determine in the education sector. But if pay is being set by an employee's needs, and in some Jewish organizations I believe it is, then it is no wonder that salaries are taking up more and more of the budget.]I'm sure there are some members of our staffs where only one spouse works. When looking at parental scholarship requests, we ask parents in similar situations why they expect the school to carry the burden of supporting such a life style; we expect that, barring exceptional situations, both parents will be gainfully employed. Parents can justifiably turn that back on us and our assumptions of fair salaries and the number of wage earners in a family. [Homemaking is really getting a bad rap lately. I guess it is an easy target].

One answer given to this challenge is to increase outside funding. That is easier said than done. Many donors are moving away from general donations, preferring targeted giving to specific programs. While this is wonderful for gaining gifts of equipment that are beyond our reach (could we really afford smartboards for all our classrooms at $4000-5000 a pop?), it does nothing to help the bottom line. And there is not an endless supply of outside donors either. Many of the biggest givers are hit up by a growing number of institutions, so that even if actual giving goes up, each school gets a smaller piece of the pie. [To say nothing of the growing number of institutions].

Finding new donors is like searching for a needle in a haystack. If someone has enough money for a big gift, chances are others know about the person as well, or will in short order. And the really big gift takes years to cultivate; it is rare to get a letter in the mail from a lawyer with a multi-million dollar check from an unknown donor's estate. The larger the gift, the longer the development time, the more opportunity others have to approach the donor as well.

PEJE has tried to nudge schools into sharing costs where possible. I think that statistics bear out that most day schools have less than 100 students. Schools such as these might be able to find ways of sharing certain back office expenses: does each school need an executive director? can schools share office staff? But mid-size and larger schools have more than enough to maintain full-time executive directors, controllers, maintenance managers, technologists, and social workers. Joining with other schools just doesn't work. [I really don't think sharing resources should be dismissed as impossible. It would be nice is the suggestion of PEJE was at least given a fair trial in a pilot program. Many companies outsource certain functions because taking care of them in-house is far too pricey. At least in smaller (public) school districts, certain administrators/employees are shared by numerous schools].

The only real way to stop the inexorable creep of salaries is to cap them. That way we know that there is a maximum salary load that we will achieve, within reason. This does not address newly created positions to address student needs. But schools will set different caps, or they will lure away a prized teacher by making a salary cap exception. I am gaining a stronger appreciation for professional sports owners and their problems with run-away salaries. And our salaries are hardly exorbitant. Do we go to a system where we declare "franchise" teachers and any school poaching one has to pay a penalty or open its protected teachers to being approached by other schools in return? And how do we balance less affluent schools against the more affluent? And how do we decide on a cap- a per hour rate? What about positions that are harder to fill? Is there one rate for language arts teachers and another for science teachers? Do limudei kodesh teachers get a preferential rate? [Perhaps this is where combining resources can help. Salary ranges could be set in a "district," rather than in individual schools. As I understand, salaries have been driven up by the competition for prized staff.]

Reality also has to play a role. In searching for a new principal over the past few years, I was struck that a thirty-something applicant, without any experience as a principal, only some limited work as an assistant principal, expected to earn over $175,000 in salary and benefits.
Where does that leave a school moving forward? And the number of teachers we all have that are approaching or who have surpassed $100,000 annual salaries is increasing. [Perhaps promoting from within at lesser salaries, rather than trying to recruit principals from the outside that demand incredible salaries, despite inexperience, is a route that should be pursued. Who better to understand the inner workings of a school, the needs of the students, and the expectations of the parents body that someone who has already been in the trenches?]. In the real world, those salaries are not common. [Hear, hear!]

I am not advocating for salary caps. I am just at a loss looking to the future for a way to continue to make ends meet. The real world work force does not have automatic annual increases. They do not have a 10-month a year job structure. There is increased expectation that jobs are not 9 - 5 any more. People stay at work until the job is done, no matter how late it gets. And they give up weekends when needed. And there is no extra compensation for work that has to be taken home to be completed. And vacation days get eaten up by the chaggim. These are, increasingly, the realities faced by our parent body. And these have been the reasons we have given for justifying our salaries (teaching is more than just classroom time, we do research and prepare over the summer, etc.).

Charter schools, after-school programs and no-frills schools are not the answer. The first two will wilt as soon as final exams and other high stakes tests are encountered. Do we really expect the same effort from students who are in a program that does not affect their GPA when the SAT is a month away? We need to be realistic. No-frills schools have other, external costs, as has been discussed already. The system we have is the one with which we must work.

We need to be much more sensitive to parental fears. The current financial crisis has actually given us that opportunity. Cutting costs where possible, holding staff salaries in place, making a serious drive to increase gifts from donors, and a minimal increase in tuition shows that we are looking to spread the burden across all stakeholder groups. That worked this year.

My real worry is what to do if next year is equally economically dismal. Where will we cut then? I have no answer.

Not for 2010-11. Not for further down the line. [It is obvious to me that day schools don't really view themselves as part of a free market system, despite being funded directly through fees, rather than through taxes. If those running schools in this environment did relate to the free market, I believe they would be looking try new ideas.]

Eliyahu Teitz

38 comments:

Ezzie said...

Why would a 3% increase make sense when inflation is nearly non-existent?

Other than that, very interesting.

I'm awaiting the day when some smart entrepreneur creates a company that does much of the admin work that can be pooled and pitches it to schools.

SephardiLady said...

Ezzie-Figure out how you can be that entreprenuer!

tesyaa said...

Our experience has been that Bruriah (a division of JEC) is a very good school. The teachers are qualified, etc. But it is not a no-frills school by any stretch of the imagination. Apple picking trips, rafting trips, and more, are all "included" in our tuition. Blows my mind that we are paying for that. It is an "all-frills" school.

Anonymous said...

Why 3% across the board pay increases when most are employers aren't giving any raises this year and some employees are taking cuts to keep their jobs? I also don't get the $100,000 figure for teachers. Average teacher pay in even the best paying school districts are much lower. For NJ, its probably closer to 60,000 for someone with 20 years experience.

rejewvenator said...

Let's not fixate on the 3% issue. I think we'd all agree that linking salaries to cost-of-living is the basic increase you have to make to keep people earning the same amount, in real terms, each year. Beyond that, people should earn more, even for the same job, as they gain more experience and become better at their jobs.

This means that salaries will rise, and that the sports analogy makes a lot of sense. You can't build your teaching team out of high-priced veterans. You need to build a balanced team, with some key graybeards earning at the high end, a veteran core earning realistic salaries, and young up-and-comers at the low end of the salary range.

Let's be blunt. If salaries represent more than 80% of school costs, the only way to control costs is control salaries. That means getting more out of less. If we go from an 18:1 student-teacher ration to 27:1, we can cut salary costs by about 1/3. If salaries are 80% of the budget, we've just sliced about 27% of the budget. That's real savings, and a real answer.

tesyaa said...

rj, except that schools do not cut staff. They are a source of jobs for people who prefer not to work outside of the community.

tesyaa said...

Reading these 2 posts, plus the one above above, makes it clear to me that there is no solution to the tuition problem. Tuition may not even be exorbitant, but it is unaffordable. For that reason I think public school will be the wave of the future, whether charter or not. This sea change will come too late for me, but maybe not for others.

Ezzie said...

Tesyaa - I don't know that you're right, but I think we need to determine if you are.

Dave said...

First, as far as cost of living, inflation is far less than 3%.

Moreover, all over the world, companies are either freezing salaries or cutting them because of the state of the economy.

Finally, as has been pointed out, these salaries seem very high.

SuMMy said...

Good teachers should be paid top dollar. Bad teachers need to be let go. It's simple.

It may be that some schools cant afford to go after high priced teachers- then build from within (baseball equivilant is the A's). When enough schools cant pay top dollar than teacher salary will go down- that's the market (look at what happened in the majors this past season). The market accounts for all this and administrators need to be smart to recruit teachers. Not all top teachers need to make top dollar. Some may give schools a "home team discount" (e.g. take a lower salary than their worth) if it's close to home, their kids go there, they enjoy the environment, etc- just like in real life.

The only problem is schools will continue to give high priced teachers raises even when they are just "mailing it in" (e.g. giving less than full effort) and will not reprimand them. Parents suffer in the wallet, kids suffer educationally.

This isn't easy- but it's not as hard as it sounds...

ProfK said...

I'm puzzled as to why that 3% raise is deemed necessary to keep the teaching staff intact. In our economic times where does R' Teitz think that those teachers who might leave would find work? Today's mantra is if you have a job, keep it, no matter at what cost. None of our local schools gave raises this year nor are they doing so for next year. My college is not giving raises this year. Everyone needs to be practical, and a 3% raise is just not practical today.

JS said...

The solution is so obvious and yet the yeshivas are unwilling to do what is necessary. Salary is 83% of the budget. Salary must be controlled in order to bring the budget under control.

I have the utmost respect for teachers, but I am sick and tired of teachers complaining how about how bad off they have it. I'd like to see them work 10-12+ hours days and be expected to bring work home and work weekends. They get 2 months off, have incredibly regular hours and are always home early and free on weekends, they don't have to take off chagim, they have no problems getting home on time for shabbat, and don't have to worry about any other "frum issues" that arise in the workplace. On top of that, apparently many teachers are earning 6 figures, which if you calculated on an hourly basis would blow your mind. Plus many get tuition discounts on top of all this. And don't get me started in principals making $175k - this is just absurd. And who gets cost of living adjustments anymore outside of government?

How can Eliyahu Teitz write so much about what parents are going through - "The real world work force does not have automatic annual increases..." and not see what the solution is?

Increase student to teacher ratio, get rid of all the ruach directors and other completely unnecessary positions, stop 3% raises, come up with sensible wages and benefits for all staff based on hourly rates, and come up with ways of sharing staff and administration.

Anonymous said...

Rav Eliyahu Teitz's comments are very interesting, as are the posts above. Keep the positive discussion going. The following are a few JEC specific points, as a JEC parent:

1. JEC does not give tuition discounts to teachers. This is a major advantage for JEC compared to many other schools I know, but puts them at a disadvantage in recruiting -- potentially part of the reason for a paltry 3% raise even in these tough tims.

2. The avg teacher salary calculation incorporates administration. Thus, the avg teacher salary may be lower. Yes, this is a potential question of overall overhead vs. allocating salary to teachers.

In general, I do not personally care to tell the school where to cut, that is the purview of the Principal / management. However, it is quite reasonable to state they should greatly cut payroll and benefits. I strongly feel the parent's role should be to state the equivalent of a requirements specification: stating the expected level of quality/education/experience we are looking for in the product, and part of that could be to control overall costs. It is the administrations role to state what quality/etc... they will provide, and find a way to achieve that. Rav Eliyahu Teitz spoke to that with regard to market economies.

How do we control costs? Adjust the application and scholarship timeline, ensure the schools have enough information to make proper financial decisions (again, we cannot reasonably ask for the data, but the administration should provide reason to be confident in their abilities).
A JEC Parent

tesyaa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Do many schools take advantage of their professional parent resources? How many schools take advantage of the finance controllers, the technology gurus, management and leadership consultants in their midst, to name but a few? If we could find a way to provide prioritized and discrete projects to such individuals -- who are chomping at the bit to help -- then we would greatly improve our schools as well as potentially flatline costs.

Administrators need to open their minds and be willing to think in terms of using parents, as well as be confident enough to open the books/other data of the school so these selected parents may truly help them. I am a financial controller with a background in process improvement, decision analysis, and multi-million dollar project management. Many fellow community members are sys admins, consultants, investment bankers, private equity associates, lawyers, salesmen/marketers, etc... B"H we are a talented group.

On the other hand, the parents need to expect less control than they may have at work (i.e. high level project managers), and need to earn the respect of school administrators to take on useful roles.

Together, we can make a difference, be engaged from both sides, and work towards positive solutions that will improve our children's educations.

A JEC Parent

Commenter Abbi said...

Did you ask R' Teitz's permission to copy, paste and comment?

If not, I think that's a bit rude. If so, I'd like to see his response to your comments.

Avi said...

I'm pleased to see that R. Teitz understands the world in which his parental body lives - it's not always clear that our Rabbinate does.

The solution is obviously to cut staff, but, as an insider, R. Teitz doesn't have the will to do it (justified by sound educational reasons). By refusing to cut staff costs, R. Teitz is acting as if this is a storm that will blow over, but he admits that it's a long term structural problem. This happens a lot in corporations when shareholders -- or a bankruptcy judge -- kick out non-performing management. Sometimes only outsiders can make the necessary hard changes to keep a company going. Well, that's going to happen here, too if money doesn't magically appear in the next budget cycle for our schools (and if the money does appear next year, it will happen the year after that). I'm sure that there are others, but the only school I know of that is actively cutting staff to keep tuition flat is RYNJ.

Charlie Hall said...

"Per student cost: approx. $13,333."

By comparison, the per student cost at Bronx High School of Science is $12,248:

http://schools.nyc.gov/Common/Templates/MainTemplate/CommonMainTemplate.aspx?NRMODE=Published&NRNODEGUID=%7b9EFE0C33-7D89-45E1-9283-40A289A6A437%7d&NRORIGINALURL=%2fSchoolPortals%2f10%2fX445%2fAboutUs%2fStatistics%2fexpenditures%2
ehtm&NRCACHEHINT=Guest

The cost efficiency of Bronx Science probably comes from the fact that it has between 2,600 and 2,800 students, none of them requiring special education services. The average class size ranges from 28 to 34.

"I'm a bit confused why a potential across-the-board raise is being discussed while the average parental income is falling"

Because if Rabbi Teitz doesn't pay competitively, the best teachers will find other jobs.

"But if pay is being set by an employee's needs, and in some Jewish organizations I believe it is"

In many cases, if you set pay based on perceived need of the employee rather than the job, you've violated either the Civil Rights Act or the Equal Pay Act.

'Do we go to a system where we declare "franchise" teachers and any school poaching one has to pay a penalty or open its protected teachers to being approached by other schools in return? '

Doing this would probably violate antitrust laws.

"I was struck that a thirty-something applicant, without any experience as a principal, only some limited work as an assistant principal, expected to earn over $175,000 in salary and benefits."

$154,296 is the maximum salay for a high school principal in the New York City public schools:

http://www.csa-nyc.org/ps/pscontract.php

" A well managed endowment with $100 million in it will spin off between $5 million to $7 million annually. "

The total cost of Jewish education in America is around $2 billion annually. To generate that via an endowment would require a principle of $28 billion to $40 billion. Not even Bill Gates has that kind of money.

Charlie Hall said...

"Average teacher pay in even the best paying school districts are much lower."

Here is the salary scale for teachers in New York City Public Schools:


http://schools.nyc.gov/NR/rdonlyres/CD18AE57-CC05-4016-8BC8-B2BACFC82122/38101/2008SalarySchedule.pdf

Note that the top base salary, for a teacher with a masters degree + 30 additional credits, is $100,049 after 22 years of experience.

Suburban school systems pay more.

The problem is that you are trying to attract the best and the brightest graduates to go into teaching, with a starting salary of $45,530 in New York City. In the past, it has been very easy for new graduates to make 50% more than that in the financial services industry.

Anonymous said...

Some questions (that will not be answered):

1. Of the $10,000,000 in salary, how much is for teachers and how much is for administration, support, and other non-teacher staff?

2. Do administrators get free tuition for their children? How much does this amount to?

3. Why is there an across the board 3% increase in a year without inflation, and in a year in which most people are seeing no increases, and some are seeing decreases? (In my case, no raises, no bonuses, and a severely reduced and less flexible vacation/sick policy)

4. Are new contracts being signed with administrators? Are they longer than 1 year in length? (This amounts to a future obligation without necessarily having the means to pay for it. Not a good thing to do in a deep recession).

5. How much of their budget is spent on "nice to have's" rather than "need to have's"? Do they have a fancy gym? Do they have fancy screens connected to fancy computers in every classroom, that requires an almost full-time IT person to be on staff?

6. Do they allow their spending to be "dictated" by board members that are [usually] very wealthy, or do they also have the moderating voices of regular, average earning, baalei/baalot batim on the board as well?

Maybe more later.

Mark

Anonymous said...

It seems like the reason for R' Teit's inaction is the questions that inevitably arise. Who to cut? What to cut? When to cut? Who to raise? Who to pay?

So like many jewish institutions JEC will do nothing because they don't know the right answer! Simple solution: let someone else decide for you. Have an independant audit or a management consultant help you make the tough decisions.

It's what great organizations do.

Anon426 said...

I think I have said this already -- I've certainly thought it over and over. The expense of putting kids through day school is more than just not having enough money for vacations. Or even not having enough money to live. It really aggravates me to see that the expectation from the schools and other venues is that both parents will be "gainfully employed".

There is a cost associated with that that gets very short shrift.

For both parents to be gainfully employed to the point where it is financially worth it takes quite a toll on the family. Especially the wife. Excuse me in advance to those husbands who share equally in household duties -- my husband does not and I suspect that is the norm. Especially when you are also expected to have no household help. Hello!? I work 35 hours a week, my husband barely contributes to child rearing and household management. I take out the trash. I get the cars fixed. I do the yard work. And the dishes. And the laundry. And put the kids to bed by myself every night. And put the dog out morning and night. I am sick of it already. My kids are on the young side (10, 8, and 5). They help some, but they get home late have homework to do and need to unwind also.

I get way too little sleep and few breaks. I yell at my kids way too much. One reason my husband participates so little is because he is exhausted all the time. He has chronic insomnia partly because he is so stressed out. Is there a vacation on our horizon? Not a chance. Is there even a TAKE-OUT PIZZA on our horizon???? No way.

I would have a far healthier JEWISH household without the financial stress which results in my having to be away from home 8 hours/day. My husband and I are not very learned. My kids would certainly be less learned. But my Jewish family would be much healthier if both parents did not have to work full-time.

JS said...

Anon426,

I really feel for you. I don't think yeshivas understand what the situation at home is really like.

I think we need to seriously reexamine what it means to be Jewish or frum. Jewishness goes far beyond learning and sitting in shul for a drasha. It even goes far beyond being able to say kiddush properly in front of one's Shabbos guests - we have family friends who became religious and the husband can barely say kiddush properly as his Hebrew is incredibly limited. Is he or his family less Jewish?

Is it worth killing yourself and slowly destroying your family so that your kids know a few rashis? It is worth having kids who can tell a d'var torah at the expense of a divorce or constant family fighting?

I know I'm minimizing, but seriously is it worth it? What exactly are we paying for?

Anonymous said...

JS - I really feel for you. I don't think yeshivas understand what the situation at home is really like.

They have no idea ... whatsoever. School finishes at 3:30 or so, and by 4 or 4:30, they all go home. They (all of the administrators and most of the teachers) usually don't have a long commute because they live near the school and most community schools are pretty close to the community. They are also off every erev chag and every chag and never have to juggle vacation days to be a frum Jew.

They really have no idea. The same goes for the Rabbanim of our communities who live a few hundred feet from the shul, their workplace. Though the Rabbanim sometimes have a spike in work if there are lots of funerals or a kashrut crisis one week, but most of the time, they have it good. Really good. And that's why they have no idea how we, the baalei batim, live.

Mark

ProfK said...

It sometimes pays to have friends in high/low places. Although they requested strict anonymity, the across the board response to "some teachers are getting $100K a year" was incredulity followed by laughter. Who did I ask? Teachers in the day school system, both in Jersey and in NY.

One teacher put it this way: "even if they add into the figure what they have to pay in social security and taxes and their portion of the health insurance, even if you round up the number, I don't come near that figure." Yet another teacher said this: "there is no single teacher in the secular studies department who is making that kind of salary. If there were, that's the kind of secret that couldn't be kept, we'd all know and you bet there would have been screaming." Still another teacher said: "my specialty is science and I know that I am paid somewhat more then the teachers who are in most other subject areas. But 100K? I wish!"

I am NOT accusing R' Teitz of lying outright, but there are lies of commission and lies of omission. What has been omitted is any breakdown of what is meant by staff/faculty salaries. As was mentioned above, it is quite possible that those salaries represent administration, not just teachers. What are rebbis being paid? What are third grade teachers being paid?

Let me end with this. An acquaintance, having put in his required years in the NYC public school system for the highest tier pension, retired but was too young to do nothing. He took a job teaching in a Jersey day school high school. I mentioned the 100K to him and his first response was "what have you been drinking?!"

Yet again a lack of transparency, a lack of putting the numbers out where they can be seen--all the numbers--has skewed a serious discussion.

Avi said...

@Mark,

On the surface, sure, being a Rabbi is a great gig, and every Rabbi I've ever spoken to has loved certain aspects of it - the learning, the schedule, the commute. None have mentioned money, but our shul's rabbi makes more money than I do simply in salary, and then he makes more by teaching part time. His wife stays at home with the children. She can do that because he also has parsonage and gets free tuition (at least for one or two of the kids in the school he teaches at). And yet, he works incredibly hard, he's on call 24x7, so is his wife, and, believe me, they earn every cent. My cousin was a pulpit rabbi (and also taught on the side, as did his wife) before making aliya. We spent a Shabbos with him once -- he couldn't come to us, because he was tied to his shul -- and came away exhausted just thinking about their lifestyle. My grandfather was a pulpit rabbi for 50 years, and when he discovered that my cousin was following in his footsteps he wasn't proud - he begged my cousin to reconsider.
Do our Rabbinim have the same stresses that we do? No. They have different ones. Do they understand the way we live? Not by living the way the baal habaatim do - though they do an awful lot of marriage counseling, so they have a window into what's going on. Plus, any time they give a drasha that shows they're even the tiniest bit out of step with reality, the baal habaatim let them have it.

Charlie Hall said...

"my husband barely contributes to child rearing and household management"

We expect husbands to go to three minyans a day, plus a daf yomi shiur, plus attend evening shiurim, plus serve on shul boards....is it any wonder husbands don't have time for their families?

I'm keeping up with Daf Yomi, but I had to give up my shiur and do it on my own.

tesyaa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JS said...

Yet another reason why Judaism and frumkeit need to be redefined. It is NOT all about learning and shiurim. This ridiculous over-emphasis with ALWAYS having to daven with a minyan (as if davening alone quickly is assur), always having to run to a shiur (as if one MUST learn every single day or as if helping kids out with chumash homework isn't really learning) - it's all just out of control.

Judaism has become a license to avoid one's wife and children. And it's compounded by yeshivas that take our kids away from us for such long hours, some yeshivas on Sundays as well, and rabbis that push sleepaway camp so we can't even see them when they're off. It's further compounded by women being forced to work and be away from their families just to pay for tuition while still being expected to fulfill their "traditional" role.

Their are subtle signs of it everywhere - shuls are now programming meccas scheduling shiurim every single night to keep men out of the house even longer. Shiurim continue on Shabbos from maybe 2 hours after lunch should end to Mincha, so the one day off that is supposed to be for family is spent away from family. Youth groups in the shul keep kids away from parents long past the age that they need to be babysat. And other organizations like NCSY drag kids away for events and shabbatons frequently.

And of course when a husband and wife are finally together, they can finally stress out and argue in front of the kids they never get to see about finances and how money is tight and debt is rising because of tuition.

One really needs to question whether this new frumkeit is the right direction for our community.

Anonymous said...

JS - Excellent points. These issues are rarely discussed by schools and community leaders. Some people are so worried about keeping children (and sometimes men) insulated from the secular world and "bad" influences that they keep them programmed 24 hours a day. In so doing, they keep them insulated from their own families.

Anon426 said...

I just want to say how gratified by everyone's responses to my recent comment.

JS you are particularly insightful and articulate. Not just in this discussion, BTW, but in other's as well. What do you do for a living? You really hit the nail on the head when you say that "Judaism has become a license to avoid one's wife and children." There was a time when my husband never made it to shacharis EXCEPT when we were going on a family outing and then we all had to wait for him. Dinner at certain times of the year
is particularly exasperating because invariably it's going on the table just in time for mincha/maariv.

There is an organization I know of whose motto is (or was?) learn how to learn so you can learn with your child. Of course, who was home learning with the kids?! Not the guy at the shiur!

JS: Is it worth killing yourself and slowly destroying your family so that your kids know a few rashis?
It is worth having kids who can tell a d'var torah at the expense of a divorce or constant family fighting?


Not to me it isn't. I voiced some of these thoughts to my husband just a couple of days ago. I expect
it to continue when we get our tuition assistance letter from the school. :-(

JS said...

Anon426,

Thank you for your kind comments. Not to give too much away, but I go to law school at night while working full-time during the day.

You may be interested in a guest post I wrote over at DovBear's site:

http://dovbear.blogspot.com/2009/06/is-yeshiva-worth-it.html

It deals with some of the non-Orthonomic aspects of whether yeshiva tuition is worth it and will give some more insight into my perspective. Good luck with everything.

Anonymous said...

Apparently R. Teitz posted his comments (that were excerpted in this post) on a message board a few months ago.

Would it be chutzhpahdik for me to post my questions there?

Would it be chutzpahdik for me to email my questions to him since he isn't likely to see them on the old thread from a few months ago?

Mark

Charlie Hall said...

Ezzie,

Regarding the 3% increase -- all rent-stabilized apartment rents are about to increase 3% (6% if the lease is for two years) thanks to the decision by the government agency that decides such things yesterday. So yes, 3% is a minimum raise people would expect to see.

Anonymous said...

Updated (and one addition, see 2a below) questions -

1. Of the $10,000,000 in salary, how much is for teachers and how much is for administration, support, and other non-teacher staff?

2. Do administrators get free tuition for their children? How much does this amount to?

2a. Do local Rabbeim get free tuition for their children? Which Rabbeim are eligible for this benefit and why?

3. Why is there an across the board 3% increase in a year without inflation, and in a year in which most people are seeing no increases, and some are seeing decreases? (In my case, no raises, no bonuses, and a severely reduced and less flexible vacation/sick policy)

4. Are new contracts being signed with administrators? Are they longer than 1 year in length? (This amounts to a future obligation without necessarily having the means to pay for it. Not a good thing to do in a deep recession).

5. How much of their budget is spent on "nice to have's" rather than "need to have's"? Do they have a fancy gym? Do they have fancy screens connected to fancy computers in every classroom, that requires an almost full-time IT person to be on staff?

6. Do they allow their spending to be "dictated" by board members that are [usually] very wealthy, or do they also have the moderating voices of regular, average earning, baalei/baalot batim on the board as well?

Mark

westbankmama said...

SephardiLady - I think these posts are outdated. From what I hear, many schools are firing a lot of teachers and administrators, and hiring others at half the salary - when they hire at all. Which means that reality is setting in - and the market is having an effect on salaries (gee, just like the real world!).

Anonymous said...

"Which means that reality is setting in - and the market is having an effect on salaries (gee, just like the real world!)."

Not really. It's universes away from a real competitive market. It's not the consumers not purchasing or finding a substitue it's that some are simply unable to pay full tuition and donations are drying up.

Miami Al said...

I say parents refusing (unable) to pay IS finding a substitute.

Instead of a Day School education at $12k, they'll take one at $6k or $0, and the school has to decide if it's worth it.

If I go to a car dealership and the sticker says $30k, and I pay $22k, that's getting the price down... doesn't matter that the MSRP still says $30k, I paid $22k.

A published price, either sticker or posted tuition, is an offer to sell a good or service at that price. There is no reason not to make a counter offer, and if they take it, great, not your problem.

Reality is setting in, people are unwilling/unable to pay the previous price. The schools will either take less, a defacto price decrease, or close up shop and the customers will find another vendor.

Given the glut of Kollel men and their wives, I don't see a shortage of Judaic instructors. As family support dries up, there should be plenty of tutors available for those choosing public school.

The market is working quite fine. The laws of supply and demand, much like the laws of physics and other thinks that govern the universe, are given by Hashem. The Hashkafa of "hide the frummies from the world" is given by men. Which do you think will hold?