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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Generosity and Potential Danger

Hat Tip: rosie and at least one other commentor if not more.

The Jewish Star ran a story this past week regarding the very difficult choices some parents are facing regarding schooling, and in some cases the mortgage is taking priority and students are being placed into public school for the first time (also see VIN).

I just want to look at one part of the article, the part that left my mouth open wide "Rabbi Wolowik described approaching a man on behalf of a family in tuition crisis, who already pays his own hefty tuition bill. The man took out a home equity loan in order to help."

I am both floored by the generosity of a man who would undertake such an incredible commitment (I'm under the assumption that the family's own cash flow and savings would not allow one additional tuition payment per year) and floored by the decision because financially it could potentially erode his own household and threaten his own ability to make tuition for his own children. (Yes, debt will never appeal to me!)

Am Yisrael is an amazing people. But, the burden has become tremendous and what happens next year?

The article does mention some new after school programs. Certainly that is an alternative. I really don't see mass yeshiva education as having long term viability without major changes. In future posts, I hope to look at some less conventional schooling models that I have found that could be of interest. I have one scheduled as I type on a "hybrid" school.


Anonymous said...

I too was struck by that man's generosity. Unfortunately, it is not a long-terme solution. How many people can take out loans to finance tuition for their own children, let alone the children of other families, much less take out a home equity loan year after year when there is no more equity. It's one thing to take out loans for real emergencies like medical emergencies or during war , i.e. to pay bribes to get people out of holocaust Europe. For large expenses that recur every year, loan are not feasible.
Loans are just not a long-terrm solution for tuition (except for college education where the student will be paying back the loan out of the higher earnings the education should bring).

David said...

And let's not forget, college loans should be being paid by the student him/herself, and also that college is for four years, while day school is for 13. Yikes.

ProfK said...

You know that story about the little boy who put his thumb in the dike to hold back the sea? Makes for a cute story but the reality is that one thumb can't hold back the sea, especially since that hole is getting bigger every second. Yes, very generous of that man to take out a loan against his home...and very dangerous to his own family. And what happens next year? Is he going to take out that loan again? All this won't stuff up the hole and it sure doesn't stop it from widening every second. You don't treat a situation that is crying out for major surgery by giving a vitamin and putting on a bandaid.

Charlie Hall said...

Here are the hard numbers:

Approximate number of Jewish children in the United States in some form of Jewish school in a typical year: 220,000.

Fraction of those children who are Orthodox: Approximately 80%.

Approximate average tuition per child: $10,000/year.

Total annual cost of educating the
Orthodox children in America in Jewish schools: $1.76 billion.

Total number of Orthodox Jewish adults in the United States: Approximately 250,000.

Average cost of Jewish education *per Orthodox adult*: about $7000/year.

For over 40 years our community leaders have promoted vouchers as the way to solve these financial problems. They haven't happened, and they aren't going to happen any time soon, if ever. There is zero public support for them outside of some talking heads, most of whom want to destroy public schools. (We don't want to do that; we just want some fairness.) Everywhere vouchers have faced a voter referendum, they have lost, usually by landslide margins. An attempt in New York State to change the state constitution to even make them permissible lost badly in 1967, getting only 27.9% of the vote! (And although the vote was technically for an entirely new State Constitution, the repeal of the Blaine Amendment to allow government support of religious schools was the major controversy.)

Somebody better come up with a better model, and fast. HaShem performs miracles but He has not been notably willing to repeal the laws of arithmetic. (And besides, it is asur to rely on a miracle.)

Ten Jew Very Much said...


I've been looking for current numbers. NJPS is out of date. Where did you get these? (I don't disagree with them. I want to do a parallel analysis on the local level.)

Are there statistics on the structure of school costs--e.g., the ratio of total administrative to total teaching salaries plus wages, average teaching staff cost per student, etc.?

SephardiLady said...

Ten Jew-I would not be surprised if most school don't have some of those cost accounting figures themselves.

Zach Kessin said...

A friend of mine once told me of a saying in spanish that translates as "and after us, the flood". I think that is the basic operating idea here. We will pay for RIGHT NOW and next year, well that will happen next year.

OF course there is the whole idea of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and thinking you will somehow get a different result

Anonymous said...

Zach, are you sure you don't mean French? Apres moi, le deluge is famously attributed to Louis XV.
“After my reign, the nation will be plunged into chaos and destruction.” I first heard this in Modern European History in public high school, 28 years ago.

Ten Jew Very Much said...


Yes, I can get some individual school numbers. I'm trying to compare these to schools in other cities, as well as regional, comparable city, and national averages.

Plus, I think that many schools don't bother to develop anything beyond cost per student and ratio of teacher salaries to total budget. Nor do they track these over time.

Charlie Hall said...

"I've been looking for current numbers. NJPS is out of date. Where did you get these?"

My overall population numbers were based on NJPS; my student numbers were based on Dr. Marvin Schick's more accurate counting of students enrolled in day schools. Neither is going to be off by an order of magnitude or even close. The cost estimate is a wild guess.

"Are there statistics on the structure of school costs--e.g., the ratio of total administrative to total teaching salaries plus wages, average teaching staff cost per student, etc.?"

There is for public schools in much of the United States. Thanks to our numbers-happy Mayor, Mike Bloomberg, there is hardly a number associated with the NYC schools that isn't online. But such numbers are not available for most Jewish Day Schools because the schools choose not to releast the information.

Does anyone else find the lack of transparency to be baffling? I went to and found very few Jewish schools listed. And there was huge variability in adminstrator salaries listed: I found one school that was paying an administrator a salary of $407,000, but another that was paying their principal a salary of $51,627. (The maximum that a high school principal can earn in the New York City schools is about $155,000/year.)

Charlie Hall said...

"The maximum that a high school principal can earn in the New York City schools is about $155,000/year."

I should have mentioned that that is with an earned doctorate and 22 years of experience.

Anonymous said...

My own experience as a former MO yehiva employee was that there was a tremendous level of waste including over inflated salaries for administrative employees. There was also a lack of oversight that resulted in the outright embezzelment of a large sum of money over a 10-year period.

Anonymous said...

Why are we not discussing charter schools? Should be number one on the agenda.