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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Private School or Bust


A number of years ago, we took a small outing to a small museum. There we met a most fascinating boy around 10 years old who was an enthusiast of the object in the museum. He was a nice boy and started to give our family a guided tour of the museum. We found out that this young boy was a weekly visitor to the museum and, as soon as he would be old enough, he was planning on working as an intern in their summer programs. The parents were quite engaging themselves and we ended up having a conversation with them about a number of topics. At one point the the conversation turned towards education and the parents told us that they wanted their children to only go a particular private school (which is incidentally super-duper high priced, or about double the cost of a tuition for a similar aged child in a modern Orthodox school), and because of this, they had chose to have only one child.

On the car ride back we ended up having our own conversation about the idea of really limiting a family because of private school tuition. There are limits, and then there are limits. I felt a lot of sadness for them (although perhaps that is not fair, because I have no way to gauge their inner feelings) and I even felt a upset that seemingly dedicated and committed parents would make such a nihilistic choice. I don't mean to be harsh, but such a decision seems so fatal and for what? To send your child to a private school?

I similarly feel a great deal of sadness for families in our own community struggling with the decision to have child #3. The comment was left on my blog motzei Shabbat by an anonymous commentor and I know they are not at all alone.

So sad, At lunch today with 2 other MO couples. All three of us acknowledged that we couldn't afford more than the two kids we already have due to Yeshiva tuition. All 6 of us already work full-time jobs. One of the woman was almost in tears b\c she really wants a third kid but can't afford one b\c her husband already works 3 jobs to make ends meet. This my friends is the state of modern orthodoxy. Enough said.

Comments such as these are very sad, perhaps because they are so easy to relate to. I don't quite know what to say because I understand the desire to be part of the kehilla at the very basic level which I will define as being a member of the shul and sending your children to day school/yeshiva. But I just don't know that it is a good idea to worship at the day school/yeshiva alter when the desire to expand the family is burning within you, to say nothing of the mitzvah of pru u'revu.

Day schools/yeshivot are already struggling to get by. There is a small stream of students who are leaving the day school system. More and more families that were once paying full tuition are applying for aid. The situation simply doesn't look great, although it is an open miracle imo that schools have lasted to this point. We have no idea if day school will be a reality for the majority of Orthodox families 5 or 10 years into the future. I could imagine a scenario where families such as the one referenced end up without both day school and a that third child that they desire so intensely.

Your thoughts? I am stepping away from my computer until tomorrow, so please be civil. I haven't dared touch the subject before and I don't want my first attempt to be my last.

Update: tesyaa has posted on the same topic based on the comment from my blog.

315 comments:

«Oldest   ‹Older   201 – 315 of 315
Anonymous said...

"but blogging and commenting will do nothing."

Blogging and commenting is the first step is organizing a grass roots effort in Bergen County. It's not as if I can ask the Rabbi of my Shul to speak about this topic during his weekly drasha.
As for joining the Board of my kids' school, they won't let me because I am not worth millions of dollars like the other Board members. You need to buy a seat on the boards of yeshivahs in Bergen County. You know any plumbers or electricians on the boards? No, you don't because they are all investment bankers or partners at major law firms.

Anonymous said...

A big yasher koach to Aspiring Father. We have currently decided that yeshiva tuition/'grovelling' for breaks/general constant financial problems are just too much and we are planning to move out of the community to a place where we can send the children to public school and do the best we can as far as maintaining Jewish values. Going into debt is NOT one of those values, incurring the wrath and scorn of full tuition paying families is not one of those values and contributing to the general sinas chinam of klal yisroel is not one of those qualities. While we live in a city where (not NY OR NJ) where the public schools attract a really bad element the outlying suburbs consist of people with similar values to ours.Therefore, we move, and daven for the best.

Nosson Kotch said...

What about asking grandparents to name yeshivas as beneficiaries of their life insurance policies? Has this been tried as a solution? Seems like an easy way to raise lots of money.

Anonymous said...

Blogging and commenting is the first step is organizing a grass roots effort in Bergen County.

What you need to do is start a dedicated facebook account or yahoo group or whatever social network will be most useful. The leaders of a grassroots effort will have to put in tremendous amounts of time, 20+ hours per week. I know, from a local political effort (non-Jewish) that my husband led, how much effort is involved -- I felt like a single mother for over a year. Was the result worth it? Yes. Did it take tremendous personal sacrifice, energy, knowledge, and leadership skills? Yes. But commenting on an international blog will not effect the change that your community needs.

Anonymous said...

What about asking grandparents to name yeshivas as beneficiaries of their life insurance policies? Has this been tried as a solution? Seems like an easy way to raise lots of money.


Most people drop their term coverage when they no longer have a need (e.g. children at home, college educations to pay for, or a disabled adult child). You are asking the grandparents to pay premiums for policies that will support the yeshiva. I'm not saying you can't ask, but it's not free for them. And if they are buying policies at older ages, those policies are going to be very expensive. I guess if a few people have paid up permanent policies, it might be worth a shot to ask them.

Nosson Kotch said...

Or what about raising money from the community to buy policies for older people who agree to name yeshivah as beneficiaries? This would seem to be a more effective use of fundraising dollars. Am I missing something here?

Anonymous said...

Or what about raising money from the community to buy policies for older people who agree to name yeshivah as beneficiaries? This would seem to be a more effective use of fundraising dollars. Am I missing something here?

LOL I'm just imagining the moral hazard here: let's pull the plug on Grandpa, the school needs a new wing! or Aunt Eta, her policy is not so big, but we could get some SmartBoards!

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, yes of course there is a use of life insurance for charitable purposes, but that is usually used as an estate planning strategy for the super wealthy.

Nosson said...

I am serious. Maybe NNJKIDs can consider starting such a program instead of simply asking full-tuition paying parents to pay even more.

Anonymous said...

"A big yasher koach to Aspiring Father. We have currently decided that yeshiva tuition/'grovelling' for breaks/general constant financial problems are just too much and we are planning to move out of the community to a place where we can send the children to public school and do the best we can as far as maintaining Jewish values."

Are you suggesting that comments on this blog are causing you to move?

Orthonomics said...

Anonymous-I added the link into my header. I'm trying to figure out if there is a Google tool to allow me to archive the most popular posts.

Thanks for your suggest.

Orthonomics said...

Nosson-There are schools that do campaign for life insurance proceeds. I believe Baltimore's Rambam Yeshiva does this and I believe I covered this a number of years ago.

My own parents dropped their life insurance many years ago when we kids became financially independent. They have never owed a whole life policy and at a certain point, insurance is prohibitive.

I wonder how many people have life insurance plans to donate?

Chicago has the 5% estate plan. So far I haven't heard that a huge difference has been made, but if someone has better info, please info.

Moish said...

What about starting a yeshiva that give zero scholarships period. No exceptions. I suppose this would have the effect of lowering tuition right off the bat since we would no longer have to subsidize those on scholrship. I bet this could cut my tuition bill 30-50%. You ask, well what do you propose people who can't afford tuition do? I propose they raise the necessary funds privately or legally funnel the money through a 501(c)(3). The point is that the onus would be on the person asking for the handout instead of the current system which forces full-tuition paying parents to subsidize for those who can't (or choose not to) pay full tuition.

Lion of Zion said...

ANON:

"Would it be possible to set up some sort of permanent or semi-permanent link on your homepage to this article and comments section so that we can continue this discussion."

great idea.
then it should become clear that for the most part we all keep on repeating the same comments over and over again.

but on the other hand,

ORTHONOMICS:

did you even know that once you get to 200 comments you have to click for the next page?
ken yirbu!

Anonymous said...

Have schools looked into raising money through the muni bond market? I heard a yeshiva did this in Far Rockaway. In NJ, for example, these bonds could be sold thorugh the NJ Economic Development Council and be backed by their AAA rating.

Commenter Abbi said...

LOZ: The economic indicators aren't looking too great for America either. In fact, they look pretty crappy. Have you seen the unemployment numbers lately?


And I believe the recent book "Startup Nation" was written about Israel, not the US. America wishes it had the brain power coming out of the Israeli army.

Israeli education definitely has its problems. As the mother of first grader who learned how to read, add and subtract to 10 by Chanukah, rattles off the parsha every week, I really can't complain.

Lion of Zion said...

ABBI:

we've been through this before.

1) stop pretending your family is typical of israeli families. most are not in high tech. they struggle to make ends meet. they live in minus (perpetual overdraft). and *many* of them give up and come to america, even at the risk of living as illegals.

2) similary, stop pretending your first grader's school is typical of israeli schools. (or perhaps he/she is just precocious, after all she has such a smart mom :) ).

3) "Have you seen the unemployment numbers lately?"

yes i have, and they've been increasing throughout 2008-09 (with a slight dip in the previous quarter). poverty is up. wealth gap is wider than ever. oh wait, were you referring to the numbers in america? sorry, i was talking here about israel.

Commenter Abbi said...

Shabbos Dad in Hebrew - Abba Shel Shabbat (a play on the Friday gan ritual of Imma/Abba shel shabbat)

Lion of Zion said...

ABBI:

i beleive the proper term for what you are describing is the "shabbos taty" (at least that is what he is called in my neck of the woods).

Anonymous said...

If the economy is so great in Israel and you folks have no tuition maybe you can help subsidize my $65k tuition bill I have this year?

LeahGG said...

The economy in Israel is such that a family can make it on a lot less than a six figure salary. I know families with six children who are living on ~$60-70 after taxes and are living reasonably well. I don't think they can subsidize anyone's tuition, but they aren't asking anyone to subsidize theirs either.

And if you want to talk about educational levels, at least the kids here in Modiin seem to be getting a better education than the kids I'm in touch with in the US, one of whom at age 12 (speaks only English) asked me "How much dogs does she have?" about a friend of mine. When my dad worked on Talmud with him, he said that he didn't know even the basics there either.

If you're shelling out the big bucks at some of the schools in Bergen County, you might be getting what you pay for, but some of the private schools... well, I got a better education in Lawton, Oklahoma, and the kids in Modiin are certainly getting a better education!

Commenter Abbi said...

LOZ: Stop pretending that American olim live like standard Israeli families. American olim live at or close to American standard of living because they are almost all able to bring or get American standard jobs, because of their connections, qualifications or both. People make it work. My brother worked his American headhunting job for 2 years until he was fired when the market crashed. Within 2 weeks he started up his own practice with a friend and so far, with Gds help, he's been able to support his family of 8 over the last 18 months, which he NEVER would have been able to do in the US with yeshiva tuitions and health care costs.

Yes, there are quite large Israeli yordim communities in the US. That doesn't mean that there aren't plenty of happy Israeli and international olim families living successful lives here. Stop pretending that everyone here has one foot out the door, because it's simply not true.

My daughter is smart, maybe even precocious, but I don't chalk up her progress simply because she's smart. Without structure and a good teacher, she wouldn't have made the progress she did. Her school is simply excellent, despite how much it pains you to hear that. And it's a semi private Israeli school. I pay a little more, but it's not extravagantly different from the standard Israeli public schools.

The jpost article talked about how Israeli on the whole is doing on international testing scores. The US is not doing much better: http://4brevard.com/choice/international-test-scores.htm

Israel unemployment rate as of Oct 2009: 7.8% http://www.tradingeconomics.com/Economics/Unemployment-rate.aspx?symbol=ILS

US unemployment: 10.1% http://forecasts.org/unemploy.htm

And 10% is the average. In the Rust belt and the South it's more like 16-23%.

Sorry, you lost that one.

Commenter Abbi said...

LOZ:

We speak proper Hebrew here, not Yiddish.

Dave said...

Israel is currently reaping the benefits of immigration as far as the educated work force. (*)

With 27% of next year's first grade students being Chareidi, it is unclear if that will continue.

(*) So, sadly, is the United States. American students seem remarkably unwilling to go into technology or the sciences, and our current policies are basically forcing many of the foreign students who come here to learn out of the United States after they have completed their education. However, America has a much larger demographic base to work from.

Anonymous said...

It's very sad to read that observant Jewish families feel they can't afford more than 2-3 children. It's also sad that every discussion, more or less, turns into a tuition crisis discussion. Day school education appears to have taken over every aspect of life. The tail is wagging the dog. Is the tail really that necessary?

Anonymous said...

"Day school education appears to have taken over every aspect of life."

There is a reason for that:
1) Why am I at the job I currently am at working insane hours? Answer: Yeshiva tuition

2) Primary source of stress in my marriage? Answer: yeshiva tuition

3) Primary drain on my bank account? Answer: yeshiva tuition

4) Primary ruin of my life? Answer: yeshiva tuition.

So yes, it tends to come up in discussion every now and then.

Anonymous said...

4) Primary ruin of my life? Answer: yeshiva tuition.

If this is the case, then you really need to rethink whether your kids should be in yeshiva. Surely they realize you resent yeshivas terribly. Not a great way to assure that they turn out religious - and isn't that why you're sending them to yeshiva???

Anonymous said...

Look at the bright side: by paying yeshiva tuition you are stimulating the economy, or at least the economy of those employed by the yeshivas

Lion of Zion said...

ABBI:

first of all 7.8 and 10 and both not great
and while 7.8 does seem better, you don't look at economic indicators in a vacuum. there are trends. and the trend in israel has been for increasining unemployment since the start of '08.
and what about the other indicators i mentioned?
and what does the rust belt/south have to do with it. of course we're talking here averages. i'm sure the unemployment rate in dimona and bet shean is much higher than in herziliyah.

"Her school is simply excellent, despite how much it pains you to hear that."

great! doesn't pain me. very happy for you. but its not typical.

"The US is not doing much better"

never claimed otherwise. but i guess the difference between american and israeli test scores is like the difference between 7.8 and 10

"American olim live at or close to American standard of living because they are almost all able to bring or get American standard jobs, because of their connections, qualifications or both"

you're looking at a unrepresentative sample, i.e., the olim who have succeeded. my impression is that many (most?) american jews do not have jobs that are easily transferable to israel, family staying back to support them or connections.

"Stop pretending that everyone here has one foot out the door"

i'm sure there are many happy israelis. but at the end of the day it is clear which is the population that harbors enough discontent to pick up and move.


listen abbi. i think aliyah is a great. many reasons. it should be the goal of every american jew.
just not for financial reasons. (if anything i think a failure of MO/RZ education here is that it doesn't guide graduates into careers that are marketable in israel.)

"We speak proper Hebrew here, not Yiddish."

hebrew perhaps. certainly not proper hebrew.

Lion of Zion said...

TESYAA:

" Surely they realize you resent yeshivas terribly"

good point.
i've learned the hard way that little kids pick up everything and parents need to be more discreet with certain matters.

but on the other hand, who can resist giving guilt trip: "you see what your mother and i have to go through in order to send you to yeshivah!"

gavra@work said...

LOZ & ABBI:

Just to add another 2 cents, if you think Shobbos Abbas are bad, how about the "two weeks on, two weeks off" or "every other Shabbos" commuting back & forth to the US?

To Anon 2:04: Not every area is blessed with Morris Smith (Former head of Fidelity Magellan fund) & Ronald Lowinger (North American Foreign Trading corp), whom without YDT would have never seen a penny of Muni bonds.

At least Rabbi Bender knows how to use his resources.

Moish said...

"To Anon 2:04: Not every area is blessed with Morris Smith (Former head of Fidelity Magellan fund) & Ronald Lowinger (North American Foreign Trading corp), whom without YDT would have never seen a penny of Muni bonds."

But there are rich bigshots in Bergen County with serious wall street connections. Why don't the local Rabbis and administrators work with them and stop hitting us working-class folks up for more and more moeny.

Anonymous said...

What about creating a vibrant after school Limdei Kodesh program, as the cost of doing it all are clearly to great? We need to remove the stigma of this being a bad option as it is increasingly the only option people will be able to afford.

JS said...

I find it deeply ironic that the areas with the highest tuition bills where people are suffering the most, such as Bergen County, are also the areas with the highest (or perceived highest) levels of social stigmatization to those who choose not to toe the party line and not send to expensive yeshivas.

It's just so telling that those who are hurting the most are most fearful of doing something different.

I read the article linked to above about Bergen County residents sending to JFS - the gentleman who posted was the ONLY parent brave enough to send his kids there for half the cost.

And, shockingly, this is to another MO yeshiva!!! It's not like he was sending to public school or some other "radical" solution. Even sending to an MO yeshiva outside the areas is strictly forbidden.

This is as crazy as it gets, people!

Anonymous said...

JS: it's not the stigma of going to JFS, it's the traveling. Mapquest it. And these are elementary age kids. You don't have kids yet, but there are some things that might work for a few kids, but would be just too much for the majority of kids.

Anonymous said...

I still don't understand why we all don't get together and buy a $15 million life insurance policy on some old guy in shul and when he rachmanan litlan passes, the tuition crises will be solved. Is there a serious reason why this isn't done?

Dave said...

Because the Insurance companies aren't idiots, and can do math.

Vote with your wallets today said...

The first girl who went to Bruriah from Teaneck went there in 1983. Within 10 years, they are full busses going there. Anyone think it's strange now? I realize that Bruriah is high school, but...

More symmetrically to JFS, how about the fact that Maayanot and TABC draw boys and girls from Staten Island? Again, I realize that it's high school, but if Bergen County tuition is such a problem, wouldn't some people do it for half the tuition?

But sadly it is this drone draw that dooms alternatives and empowers the local Bergen County schools to pretty much continue doing exactly what they have been doing for 20 years. What's going to happen to them if they don't? What are you going to do about it? Sadly, not many people are voting with their economic sanity...

Anonymous said...

I'm just guessing that JFS is at least 10 miles past Bruriah (conservatively), and these are little kids. Have to come home after an 80-mile roundtrip commute, do homework, get to bed at a reasonable hour in order to get up early to do it again. If they're a little under the weather and want to sleep an extra hour, it's usually a choice of missing school or going to school not feeling great, unless a parent's available to drive. HS age is very different. An accident on the Turnpike? An extra hour on the road. (I'm sure that never happens). As a parent, you have to think about what you're putting your kid through. Some kids can do it, probably a majority can't.

Anonymous said...

tessya raised good points about the commute. Perhaps the answer is for the family to move. The parents may then be faced with a longer commute, but many are already commuting into the city.

I realize its hard to pick up a family that's already settled into a neighborhood and move, but it happens all the time and is probably easier for folks moving from one location with an orthodox community to another with an orthodox community because the new town will have a built in community. Shuls, schools, pta's, etc. are some of the best places for meeting people and making new friends.
Even if large numbers of this generation can't move,they certainly can warn the next generation about what to consider when deciding where to live.
If people move out and enrollments shrink, maybe then the schools will have to reconsider how they operate.

Perspective needed said...

Tesyaa, two points:

1) your guesses are way off. JFS is 60 miles, not 80 miles round trip and according to Mapquest - Bergenfield to JFS (400 Caswell Ave.) - 29.73 miles. Mapquest - Bergenfield NJ to Bruriah (35 North Avenue, Elizabeth) - 23.6. So your numbers are way off. Furthermore, most children who ride the teaneck or bergenfield busses to local schools are on the bus average of 30-45 minutes because of the stops on the way home.

2) JFS is unusual, but if tution crisis is curtailing family size, bakrupting middle class families, penalizing hard workers, wrecking families, etc., it seems your concerns about little Shlomo not being able to sleep late some days doesn't rank on the desicion tree.

No solution, small or hard, is perfect and none of the great options finanically are down the road. That's a fact. But compared to the the difficulties that families are claiming from yeshiva tuition, it seems as someone else pointed out, nothing really radical to drive an extra 10 minutes on the bus is it?

Anonymous said...

tessya: In olden days, and in some very rural areas these days, its not unusual for children to travel 45 minutes or an hour each way to and from school. True they didn't have 3 hours of homework, but they might have had 3 hours of chores on the family farm. Also, some homework and studying can be done on the bus/van.

Mike S said...

tessya: are you sure you aren't being paid by the local bergen county day school administrators to hate on JFS, a viable alternative? We are desperate here in BC and you seem to put down those people who are searching for a solution.

Avi said...

@JS "WHY DO YOU KEEP SENDING YOUR KIDS TO YESHIVA?"

Because I'm seeing generally excellent results. I'm paying for a private school, and I'm getting private school education. The Judaic hashkafa is reasonably close to mine, and the secular education is excellent.

My wife and I chose high earning career paths and Hashem has blessed us with enough income to pay tuitions as long as:

a) we maintain a fairly modest lifestyle in other areas (MUCH smaller house than our income would predict, older cars, no vacations, no jewelry, small/cheap simchas, and limited electronics/toys)

b) tuitions don't continue increasing faster than inflation (our school's tuition freeze this year was extremely encouraging, but if it's back up double digits going forward, we're toast)

c) the local/state/federal government doesn't increase our taxes further (not much the schools can do about this, but they do need to take macroeconomic factors into account)

d) we magically increase our earning power dramatically by the time our kids enter high school

e) we never C"V have a long term illness or long bout of unemployment or have to accept lower paying jobs

We already make a ridiculous amount of money, but at today's rates, our current income won't be enough to cover high school for four kids, even with a modest lifestyle (I haven't been to Israel in nearly 20 years and our vacations are typically "drive to relatives for Yom Tov"). Our incomes probably would be enough to cover high school if tuitions didn't include a hidden mandatory scholarship portion subsidizing other children (either by allowing us to save during elementary school years for later, or being able to pay a smaller, full freight rate then). Top-heavy administrative staffing levels are another factor I'd like to see addressed.

What to do?

Limiting family size is not an option any more. We already had that discussion after child #3.
We have four kids. Despite his temper tantrum tonight, we're not sending him back.

Aliyah is not an option for us (and before you second guess that, I should note that even my recent oleh "aliyah is for everyone" cousin agrees that it doesn't make sense in our case).

Home schooling is not an option we would consider for personal and idealogical reasons (though I agree that home schooling and co-op schools could definitely be part of the global "how do we solve this" mix).

Moving out of Bergen County -- we're both from OOT and NEVER EVER EVER thought we'd end up in the NY area -- is a possibility down the road, but only if my wife switched jobs, and I gave up easy access to NYC, which has been a success factor in my career.

A low cost yeshiva would be something I would consider, but only if they offered no scholarships. That way, all the parents are paying still-significant tuition, which means there wouldn't be a "low cost" stigma as the student body would be from uniformly high performing families. Just not rich families. Thus far, that hasn't gotten off the ground, but count us as an interested party.

Charter public school + after school Torah programs are something we would enthusiastically do for some of our kids, but not others. The home environment is key, but some kids need more hand holding than others. That also has gone nowhere in this area.

(Wife just read this. Asked, "what's your point?" My response: "Oh. That's easy. We're screwed.")

Full Tuition Paying Sucker From Bergen County said...

Avi -

My family is in the same boat as yours. I am telling you that the only real short-term solution is to get all full-tuition paying families to come together and demand that the day school's only charge us what the true cost of educating our children is. People who can't afford it should have the burden of raising the needed funds privately. Until this happens we will remain suckers.

Anonymous said...

Go for it! Go to JFS! I'm not trying to discourage anyone! Why haven't hundreds of Bergen families done it already? I heard there are 40 frum kids in Teaneck public schools already. Every family can choose its own alternate route: long commute, public school, homeschooling, moving to SI. Just do it and stop complaining. If you move to SI, just remember that you will pay approximately 4% extra in NYC income taxes, probably negating some of the property tax savings. Why do we need a radical new paradigm when there are already so many options?? I think everyone just wants to complain.

Anonymous said...

We all agree that we can't have it ALL. We can't have large families with SAHMs and private school. Maybe we can afford Bergen County but not Bergen schools. Maybe we can live in SI and commute to the city a little longer. It seems like many of the commenters want to have it ALL!

Anonymous said...

"Why haven't hundreds of Bergen families done it already?"

Because people are sheep and just want to fit in and do whatever their neighbor is doing. That doesn't mean that we aren't looking to change the situation though.

Moish said...

"It seems like many of the commenters want to have it ALL!"

I don't want it "all." I just want to stop getting spit on by the local day schools. Is that too much to ask for?

Anonymous said...

"If someone is paying more in tuition than the cost of educating their children, some schools will give a tax receipt for the portion of tuition that is a donation to pay for other students"
which would be income tax fraud-any anount whiuch is paid as a condition of a student attending the school is tuition

Anonymous said...

it seems your concerns about little Shlomo not being able to sleep late some days doesn't rank on the desicion tree

well, to me my kids' health and welfare is important, and that includes sufficient sleep & reduced stress. It seems like people are so desperate for answers that they forget they choosing yeshivas for their CHILDREN and maybe the children's needs DO rank on the decision tree. Or are you sending to yeshiva for your own reasons, not your kids' best interests? I'm thinking of the kids, dammit.

Anonymous said...

"If someone is paying more in tuition than the cost of educating their children, some schools will give a tax receipt for the portion of tuition that is a donation to pay for other students"
which would be income tax fraud-any anount whiuch is paid as a condition of a student attending the school is tuition


we asked this of a tax expert - if it's mandatory, it's not deductible as a donation. I heard of a school that made it voluntary so parents could take the deduction, but guess what? no one paid.

Anonymous said...

(NO SARCASM INTENDED) I'm sorry, I'm being unfair. I guess it's hard for me to realize that people are, indeed, like sheep. But I have always taken my own path. We moved from a neighborhood that we didn't love, to one we do, and we already had 5 kids at the time. When we didn't agree with the negative things the yeshiva was saying about my kid, we pulled him out and put him in public school - much to the yeshiva's surprise. (The public school loves him, has no issues with him). So we are taking our own path, we don't care what others think, and we try to do what's right for our family. I do understand that some people have social constraints, and dealing with those people may be frustrating for the people commenting here.

Again, I suggest that a serious grass roots effort to make the local schools aware of your plilght will take serious effort, but with enough effort by dedicated leaders, may bear fruit.

Anonymous said...

Of the commenters having a rough time here: any conflict between spouses - such as: wife wants to stay home, husband wants her to work? Or husband would commute the kids, wife won't consider it? Getting both spouses on the same page with regard to the financial facts will go a long way to fixing at least some problems. If the wife realizes she HAS to work when the youngest goes to school, or the husband gets open minded about moving to Staten Island, you open your options up so much.

Problem Solved said...

I spoke to some insurance brokers tonight. They are on board with taking out policies on the 5 oldest people in shul. They say the plan could work if structured properly.

Avi said...

@tesyaa,

Getting on the same page financially does NOT necessarily lead to getting on the same page emotionally, or that the decisions made aren't regretted. Sometimes everyone agrees both need to work and do without further conflict. Sometimes the wife agrees intellectually but secretly wishes she could stay at home with the kids until they all enter high school "just like her mother did." Sometimes wife agrees to go back to work or increase hours and then realizes that she isn't home raising her kids and regrets the decision (to work, or, in some cases, to have the number of kids they have). I've seen a number of cases like this where it's the overworked/over-stressed husband with the regrets.

And sometimes the wife agrees that it makes no financial sense to have more children, but she wants more anyway. Some women - and men - are just not rational about this issue. I know first hand of cases where the Rabbi offered a heter to stop for medical and shalom bayit reasons, wife pushed for it anyway.

Anonymous said...

Tessya: I admire your independence and your ability to do what you believe is best without worrying about what the Schwartes might think. However, I can understand why it is hard for others to follow that path. Much of orthodox life is about conformity for the sake of the community, with individualism not high on the list of valued attributes. Also, communities vary in how much deviation from the norm will be accepted. In some communities, it is much harder to deviate.

Lion of Zion said...

ANON:

"In some communities, it is much harder to deviate."

perhaps its time to move?

Anonymous said...

LOZ - did you even know that once you get to 200 comments you have to click for the next page?
ken yirbu!


I did NOT know that and thought the comments had ended, until I noticed the little tiny button at the lower right this morning!

Mark

Lion of Zion said...

MARK:

boker tov!
well then you have some catching up to do (and i'm sure some comments to add)

Anonymous said...

LeahGG - The economy in Israel is such that a family can make it on a lot less than a six figure salary. I know families with six children who are living on ~$60-70 after taxes and are living reasonably well. I don't think they can subsidize anyone's tuition, but they aren't asking anyone to subsidize theirs either.

Of course they do subsidize someones tuition! It's just done in a much more formal way via income taxes (and things like child allowances, etc).

Mark
twitter.com/MarkSoFla

Lion of Zion said...

LEAHGG:

i'm curious what the parents in this family do for a living in israel that they make $60-70 (i assume k) *after* taxes.

i'm also curious about israeli schools and how they compare to american day schools. i suspect (i really would love to hear more info) that they are typically not comparable, e.g., larger classes, no assistant teachers, in younger grades not having separate teachers for chol/kodesh, shorter days, fewer administrators, no smart boards, truncated curriculum, less electives, way fewer extacurriculars, especially expensive ones like multiple varsity sports, etc.
which brings us back to the suggestion of scaled down day schools.

Shael said...

I wish I could move out of Bergen County to somewhere less expensive. My wife won't let me though because she has family here that helps her out alot. So moving is not always an option even for those of us who want to try and do something out of the box.

Lion of Zion said...

SHAEL:

nu, so with all the money you save by moving to a cheaper are you could extend the new house to make a room for your mother-in-law.
just kidding. help from family for childcare is one big reason i'm stuck in brooklyn.

Anonymous said...

What are you going to do about it? Sadly, not many people are voting with their economic sanity...

This year, my wife and I decided to try something different. We took our 3 eldest out of Yeshiva day school (the 2 youngest are still at a Jewish preschool) and enrolled them in the local Hebrew Charter School instead. We also enrolled them in the separate Judaic Studies school in the afternoons in a different building nearby. So far, the results are as follows (in no particular order).

Positives:
1. Even though I hate to mention money first, and even though I admit that if I had a much higher income I would not have taken this step, it is the primary issue. Not having to pay the approximately $45,000 tuition payments (yes, about $4,500 a month, scary!) is a great relief. Especially this year after our income has fallen dramatically (and sadly doesn't appear to be rising anytime soon).
2. Their secular education seems to be quite good. Interestingly enough, our 10 year old, who usually does very well in every subject other than math, is suddenly also doing very well in math (On her first quarter report card she received a 98%/A in math, never having exceeded 90% in math before!). I attribute that sudden improvement in math skills almost completely to an online program that the school district (along with many other school districts) is using. It is shocking to see her rush to the computer in the evening to go through the skill sets in math, the very subject that she always described as "hating". The funny thing is that she still says that math is her worst subject even though he grades in math are comparable to the rest of her grades this year.
3. It is a small school (though slowly growing), so there is a good level of individual attention. For example, our 3'rd grader started with 8 students in her class, and it is now probably up to 9 or 10 students.
4. My kids are exposed to more diversity than they were at their MO day school. There are some African-American kids, and some Jamaican-American kids, and some Hispanic-American kids in their school. And, yes, all students study Hebrew (at various and appropriate levels, of course)!
5. The Judaic Studies program has a "Mitzvah fair" every month or two in which they focus on a particular "midah" and each class creates a display stand and an activity. It's really quite nice and I am very pleased that they are also making time to teach, and focus on, the concept of midot rather than spending all their time only on the typical straight Judaics as is done in many/most day schools.

(cont'd)

Anonymous said...

(cont'd)

Negatives:
1. The school is a bit of a drive from our home and we have to leave the house at about 7:15 each morning to arrive a few minutes before 8 for lineup before all the kids go to their classrooms.
2. The Judaic Studies program is run by a much more frum crowd than their previous MO day school was run by. The teachers are relatively young and sometimes teach the kids what I call "nonsense". For example a month or so ago, they taught about ESHE"L, or Achila, Shtiya, Leviya, and how important it is to perform all 3 parts of the mitzvah. Then they go ahead and tell the kids a story that "once a man did the mitzvah of Achila and Shtiya, but neglected the Leviya", and when you take away the Lamed from ESHE"L, you are left with ESH (fire), and because the man didn't complete the third part, his house burned down. This is utter nonsense, and shouldn't be taught at all, and certainly not to young children who often take things literally.
3. The Judaic Studies program isn't quite long enough, not so much because there isn't enough time allocated to it, but because it takes the young, and mostly inexperienced, teachers longer to get the kids to settle down, and because they tend to spend a little too much time on "fun things" like games, shabbat parties, etc.

All in all, we are mostly satisfied with our choice and will continue to reevaluate as the year progresses.

One re-evaluation just took place this month and we have decided to move our kids to a different Judaics program. This one was just too disorganized and the teachers just too young and/or untrained to handle a classroom full of kids.

Mark

Alan said...

The local Rabbis in Teaneck don't really care. Trust me. I know what I am talking about. They simply do not care. That is all I can say on that issue without revealing my identity.

Having said that, there are some basic solutions that full-tuition paying parents can take that will have immediate impact; but it involves organization and a willingness to do something bold. For example we must demand an end to:
1) having more than 1 teacher in a classroom (except for your nursery and pre-k of course)
2) having some children learn hebrew subjects in the afternoon and english in the morning as this will drastically cut down on the payroll
3) cease treating our yeshivas as the local employment agency for mommys who want to teach there a few hours a week so that there kids go for free or at a heavily subsidized rate
4) stop giving scholarships; force parents who can't afford tuition to raise the money privately.
5) At the very least, if step 4 is too radical, then eliminate scholarship abuse. This means that you are not allowed a scholarship if you have any of the following: a house worth more than $450k, a car worth more than $15k, you are not permitted any vacations and quite frankly I don't even want to see you put meat in your chulent.
6) There should be one and only one administrator in a school. We don't need 4-5 administrators each presu,ably making six-figure salaries.

Finally, please do not give a penny to NNJKIDS. NNJKIDS is nothing more than a bandaid that will make the patient suffer longer. We need the patient to bleed out and die so that we can start from scratch and build a local yeshiva that the average family can afford. It is absolutely sickening that you need to make well over $200-250k to be able to pay tuition for 2-3 kids. If you have 4 or more kids than you likely are on scholarship unless you are making serious money. (And please don't nit pick if I am a little off on these numbers. The point is that you need to make more than 99% of the population to make ends meet b\c of yeshiva tuition.)
I hope these administrators know that it is on their heads that so many jewish souls will not be born because of the tuition they charge. I suspect that G-d will hold them accountable in the Next World for the pain and suffering they are causing all of us.

Avi said...

@Alan,

Your numbers are accurate.

@tesyaa,

Sheep? I don't particularly care about the Schwartzes or what they think (I'm already the only truly MO member of my RW family, and I suspect I would secretly enjoy being different). However, I feel like I'm getting good value out of the current system. It did mean making certain career choices; fortunately, my wife and I are pretty happy with how those careers have panned out (thus far, and with Hashem's help). I am extremely concerned about the future. High school terrifies me because I cannot guarantee that our family income will rise anywhere near enough (right now our income has been sliding). At that time, I may make more radical changes.

Of course, by paying so much into the system today I'm limiting my ability to save for later, but I guess I'm not willing to make major changes today in something that is working for my kids on the basis of what might happen tomorrow. Hey, I guess I have some bitachon after all! Some...

-avi

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Avi,
Just want to point out that it was Anonymous 9:41 who used the term "sheep":

Because people are sheep and just want to fit in

I did not want to imply that the readers here are "sheep", but the "sheep" mentality may keep your neighbors from doing things differently.

Kol tuv.

Dovid said...

ATTENTION BERGENFIELD RESIDENTS:

I am going to be setting up a facebook account and/or gmail address where I will attempt to gather at least a small amount of families (hopefully at least 6-10 families) to try and arrange a group tour of Lincoln Elementary School. This is the public school that is nearest to our homes (assuming you live within the eruv in Bergenfield). I plan on meeting with the school's principal in advance to explain the situation to him and the unique needs of our population (issues relating to the importance of children not sharing snacks due to Kashrus reasons. In light of liability associated with allergy issues, i suspect this won't be a problem.) Assuming we can get a small core of parents who are interested, I will then reach out to my connections in the media and a few of the local Rabbis that I have connections with and see if I can get them on board and to push the idea as an alternative for those who simply cannot afford to carry the burden of yeshiva tuition any longer. I know this idea sounds radical at first, but just remember, this is how things were done for many, many years before the yeshiva day school system took off (and took all our money). Of course, an afternoon Talmud Torah program would be a must and there are already some options in town that should work. More details to follow. And no, I don't plan on remaining anonymous much longer (to those who were going to criticize me for that).

More details to follow over the next few weeks.

Anonymous said...

To the person who asked if any day school heads of school or administrators are reading this, the answer is yes. And no, I am not in Aruba. I am spending my vacation time working so I can do a better job at teaching kids. I am an administrator and a teacher at a day school and I can tell you that while I know the day school tuition problem acutely ("Aspiring Father" and I actually broke up partly because of this, believe it or not), it is not the case--at least not at schools in my area--that we're subsidizing "minyans" of secretaries. No one--NO ONE--is making six figures or anything in that universe. Honestly, it's insulting and demeaning to hear people say that, because most of my colleagues are working night and day to do what they do for very little salary. They do it because they have a mission, not because they need money.

The bottom line is that in order to attract the people who can pay--i.e., the non-Orthodox, who are not having tons of kids and who usually pay full tuition, but who don't innately believe in day school and need to be sold on the concept (you might call this a different form of kiruv), the school's program (academic, social, emotional, extracurricular, etc.)needs to be comparable to the NON-JEWISH private schools with which they are desperately competing. People pay tuition of private school, they expect the education of a private school. And in order to provide that, schools have to spend a lot of money on recruiting excellent teachers--professionals--not 21-year-old girls who are one year out of seminary and are just marking time until they get married. It's not enough that kids learn Torah and Secular subjects, they must also have a great playground, a good after-school program, a running track, uniforms for their teams, etc. In most of these schools, tuition covers around 80% of the actual cost of educating each child, and that is in a school that's fiscally responsible. In the schools that are not fiscally responsible, the number is much lower, and so the school is basically imploding and its budget looks as good as the U.S. Government's.

It is NOT the case that people are getting paid well. What IS the case is that the wealthy are supporting the non-wealthy (or just the normal income brackets). Yes, it looks very much like the current government's economic plans for this country, which I think are frightening. But the problem is inherent to the mission of day schools, which is that every Jewish child should receive a Jewish education, no matter what his or her parents can afford. It is a system with a mission built in. Scholarships are not merit based, as they are at fancy prep schools. (But the education is supposed to be comparable.) So, in response to those who said we should start day schools where there is no tuition assistance, period, that is certainly an option, but no matter how much tuition is, there will always be someone who can't pay. So what do we do with those people? Send them away? Or help them out a little? Well, once you start helping them out, you've mounted that slippery slope. Now, the other parents' tuition will rise to accommodate that tiny little scholarship and the number of people who need to apply for scholarship will rise as well, catalyzing a hike in tuition to accommodate that. And so the cycle begins again. In case you couldn't figure it out, that's how the cycle got to where it is today, with exorbitant price tags that our parents would never deign to imagine--inflation included.

Anonymous said...

The problem is a huge one. But the charter school system started in Florida is not gaining that much steam and I've visited it myself, doing research on this exact subject. The kids are not learning Judaism. They are learning Hebrew with other Jews. It is not a Jewish education. If that's what you want, kol hakavod. But let's call a spade a spade and face reality. Day school is not charter school. And the idea of creating high-quality after-school programs is not exactly original either. The administrators of after-school supplemental schools--such as those favored by the Conservative and Reform--have been trying to beef the programs up and make them substantive ever since the programs came into existence. It's not as though they don't realize the mediocrity of their programs and we, who actually care, will make sure to do it "right." They want to do it "right" too. But reality is reality. After school for two hours (when your child is exhausted) is no time begin learning a subject that is supposed to be the fundamental north star of his existence. Day schools have a mission. And unfortunately, fulfilling that mission has become extremely expensive.

Please, no matter what you say on this blog, don't go blaming the people who sacrifice their own salaries to teach your children.

Aspiring Father said...

This is in response to Anonymous 12:42.

There are those on this blog who focus on blaming the folks running the day schools. In the case of most of us, though, and certainly in my own case (as Anonymous 12:42 knows personally), it's not about blaming the schools or the people who run them, or the people who work in them.

I accept the word of the private schools as to what they would charge and what they would provide. I'm not questioning the pricetag--I'm asking what the pricetag is and then running the numbers in my own life based on that number.

Even if I was inclined to send my kids to a private school, I could never afford it while simultaneously living a middle-class or lower-middle class life in a normal American town. As commentators on this blog have posted ad nauseum, the numbers that are required for a family with even a handful of children to send all of their kids to day schools are, for those who have neither trust funds, grandparents with bottomless pockets, or a high level of skill with illegally concealing income, require salaries that would be ridiculously high to any normal American family.

My priority is to be the best husband and father that I can be. While I realize that some BTs come from homes in which the father worked tremendously long hours because he wanted to make a lot of money (not to spend on day school), and therefore it becomes "wonderful" to spend a whole entire Friday night & Saturday with the family, some of us come from homes in which the family dinner happened EVERY night. For those of us who not only come from those homes, but are unwilling to abandon our role as father for the sake of education through the accepted methodology, the day school thing is simply not possible. Even IF we wanted to send our kids there, it couldn't work, because we will make too much to qualify for any significant tuition waiver but too little to be able to save for retirement, etc., while simultaneously sending our kids to the Wealthy & Overprivileged Academy Of Greater West Los Angeles (or Bergen County, or Baltimore, or Nassau County, etc.)

I'm not asking the day schools to change. I've heard their numbers, I accept the figures, and my response is very simple: "I can't afford that. Period." No amount of "want" or "desire" is going to make the Tooth Fairy lay an egg on my pillow with a $10 million cheque inside.

(Continued on next post.)

Aspiring Father said...

Anonymous 12:42 then attacked all of the alternatives as flawed or lacking. Well, that's right. Every approach--even including Herr Von Rabbi Doctor Gaon's School For Children Of Doctors, Lawyers, And Welfare Recipient Kollelniks--has flaws. In the case of day schools, the flaws are that they destroy families, force the use of birth control, stifle the growth of Klal Israel, and force American Jews to live a lifestyle that constantly thwarts dozens of values that are fundamental to Torah (whether one is speaking of the insane hours in the office, the urban slums that many frum communities are built around because of cheder presence, or the arrogant heavily-Jewish suburbs that many other frum families live in because of the presence of schools--none of which environments actually help to produce young Jews with real HUMILITY).

So too, as Anonymous 12:42 rightly pointed out, there are flaws and gaps in the other approaches. But that doesn't mean that we lay down, take the approach as 100% of the solution, and moan about the rest.

You don't know how many of those charter school kids go to extra tutoring with a rabbi outside of class. You may want to wave the day school thing as the "only universal salve for Jewish education," but the truth of the matter is that you don't know that committed, serious Jews paired with committed, serious rabbis couldn't put together a tutoring package, or a consistent afternoon supplement package, and a strong home environemnt, that produced good, strong, lasting results.

The day school backers, at this point in the game, have adopted a mentality that smacks of a cult. They repel any criticism with ad hominem defenses like "I work so hard!" They insist that they are the seers with perfect insight who can predict with unassailable accuracy that every conceivable alternative to day schools will completely and utterly fail. And when you ask "AT WHAT PRICE TO MY FAMILY, MY HOME, AND MY CHILDREN???", they tell you that you must don a blindfold and march blindly through the fire, because "this is the only way." God forbid you even point out to a true believer that the day school system didn't even exist until less than 75 years ago.

No more, I say. Others may well be content to cannibalize their families, their homes, and their children to the graven idol of an educational system that devours the future of Israel in family and in culture. I am not one of them.

And if the posts that have exploded in this blog are any indication, I am not alone.

We will find another way. We will make it work. There will be more than one solution. What works for me will almost certainly not work for the next guy. But I refuse to be told that I must choose between my family and my fatherhood on the one hand, versus my Judaism and my children's Judaism on the other hand.

(Continued on next post.)

Aspiring Father said...

And as a coda:

Anonymous 12:42 wanted to get married but since Anonymous 12:42 believes that there is no way to create Jews who will give half a whit about their Judaism other than overpriced day schools, and because I believe that there is no way to send my kids to overpriced day schools without becoming a shabbos father who forgets his own kids names at least half of the time that he tries to address any of them... we're not getting hitched.

Some of you call the tuition situation "Orthodox birth control."

Anonymous 12:42 and I would call it "Orthodox marriage prevention."

And yes, we really are such a terrific couple that you would think it a horrific cataclysm that the two of us were kept from getting married by something like this.

Aspiring Father said...

Correction: Anonymous 12:42 **AND I** wanted to get married.

Yes, it was mutual!

:-)

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:42 am - No one--NO ONE--is making six figures or anything in that universe.

I know for an absolute fact that this is untrue for at least 4 schools. The administrators (and there are quite a few of them) in those 4 schools (that vary in size from 280 students to about 800 students) all earn 6 figure salaries.

So, in response to those who said we should start day schools where there is no tuition assistance, period, that is certainly an option, but no matter how much tuition is, there will always be someone who can't pay. So what do we do with those people? Send them away? Or help them out a little? Well, once you start helping them out, you've mounted that slippery slope.

What should you do? The first thing you should do is completely separate the school/tuition part from the charity/scholarship part. The school will determine what the tuition needs to be, and it will be a fixed amount for all. A separate organization, having nothing to do with the school (yes, it must have different board members, etc) will decide how much charity to dole out to the families that request such charity. And the community, plus external fundraising if possible, will fund that organization. This doesn't have to be an entirely new organization, it can be overlaid on any of the multiple other already existing charity organizations out there.

What else should you do? Well, at some point you are going to have to decide if you are a prep school or a yeshiva. Because only the top 5% income brackets can afford prep school, no matter how you slice it.

But the charter school system started in Florida is not gaining that much steam

Until 4 months ago, it was one school, not really a system. And that school grew from nothing to 600 students (maximum capacity) plus a waiting list of about 50 students in only 3 years. And this year they opened a second branch which is still quite small.

The kids are not learning Judaism.

What kind of statement is this? Of course they are not learning Judaism, it's a public school, and religion is not permitted!!!

They are learning Hebrew with other Jews.

And some non-Jews as well.

Please, no matter what you say on this blog, don't go blaming the people who sacrifice their own salaries to teach your children.

I won't blame them if you can explain to me why we need so many of them (the administrators).

Mark

Anonymous said...

Aspiring Father - And yes, we really are such a terrific couple that you would think it a horrific cataclysm that the two of us were kept from getting married by something like this.

I think this is terribly sad. Did you discuss and seriously consider other options? Like marrying and living in Israel. Or you becoming a school administrator/teacher and having mostly regular hours (when compared to your children's hours).

Mark

Aspiring Father said...

Mark asked if we considered (1) Israel, or (2) I myself becoming a day school administrator/teacher.

As to Israel: Anonymous 12:42 is thoroughly opposed to this in any way, shape, or form. She is militantly and staunchly an American. As for me? That's one of the (many) things that I find most attractive about her. :-) We're of one mind on that one.

As to my becoming a school administrator/teacher (Anonymous 12:42 is already both): My career is in a field outside of education. I'd prefer not to be specific, in order to maintain anonymity, but suffice it to say that I have a solidly rooted career in a field that I can remain within the general umbrella of for the remainder of my working years. I happen to passionately love the field that I am in, too.

That said, I should note that while many in my field are in more lucrative niches, which require a concommitant sky-high daily hourage in the office, I am in a far less lucrative niche that allows me to work normal hours. In my current niche, or any of a wide range of variations on that niche, I would have no problem routinely having dinner with my family 6-7 nights a week. Shabbos would normally be a non-issue, and it would usually be possible to arrange many (if not most) yom tovim without too much headaches (and the headaches that remain, I can deal with). But I'd never be wealthy, and I'd never be able to afford either a mortgage in a Jewish town or a day school tuition bill. But I can put in the sweat equity in lieu of that.

(And, fortunately, I've never been wealthy. So I don't feel like I'm missing anything... provided that I don't have to go 6 days without consuming any form of meat merely in order to pay for my kids to go to school!)

Anonymous said...

While it's so admirable that Aspiring Father wants to be there for his kids, it seems like it will be difficult to find an Orthodox partner who will agree to move to a town without an Orthodox community. The Jewish communal life, despite its flaws, is one of the things that outsiders are most envious of: chessed groups, meals for new mothers, bikur cholim, gemachs (non-monetary), shared Shabbos meals, etc. Asking a frum woman to give up this support will be difficult, although I guess the husband feels that with his availability he can take care of some of the things chessed committees might do. You never know when you need community support, emotional or physical. A woman with a strong Jewish identity who was raised Conservative or Reform might be interested in this lifestyle, but I can't imagine many Orthodox women would.

aml said...

I'd do i Tesyaa... sadly, for Aspiring Father.. I'm taken ;)

Offwinger said...

Aspiring Father,

I'm curious: Is there truly no city or township that has an existing Orthodox commnity that is otherwise affordable or "normal"? Or a place that is close enough to an Orthodox community that you can participate in the local shul with some effort but is still an ordinary town? Or do you mean specifically near a very specific career/job that you have?

I understand you decision re: day school, and I agree with your depiction of the values system that is out-of-balance in the Jewish world. But I want to separate the expense of day school with the expense of housing/neighborhoods in this discussion, because they are two different subjects, and one could argue that the latter is more important.

Anonymous said...

tessya: You probably are right, in part because the strain of working 80 hours/week outside of the home usually falls on the father. While many orthodox women work, its often part time or even if full time, its rarely more than 40 hours outside of the home, and they get to be home with their children for dinner and in the evenings.

Anonymous said...

Orthodox woman should work in the local yeshiva to get the tuition break. Sadly, it makes alot more sense than working as a lawyer or a doctor.

Miami Al said...

Down here, Chabad has set up shop everywhere. Plenty of middle class suburbs that Chabad hung a shingle in (they also set up in some VERY wealthy areas with a secular Jewish presence).

The established "modern" Orthodox communities down here are in expensive areas because the wealthy Orthodox doctors moved into the same towns as the wealthy non-Orthodox doctors and set up Shuls.

Chabad of Broward County has a few shingles in areas with moderate priced housing. They have two Hebrew Language Charters and they are working on a high school.

Miami just doesn't have as many moderate areas, more rich areas and slums, but even here, Chabad is establishing itself in some moderate areas.

Good luck, I hope that something similar will take place in greater New York, but I don't know that proximity to Brooklyn doesn't force a radicalization that is less of a problem 1500 miles away.

Anonymous said...

While many orthodox women work, its often part time or even if full time, its rarely more than 40 hours outside of the home

If a wife works 40 hours and handles a lot of the household chores, she is probably contributing quite a bit to the household both economically and otherwise. And dinner with the kids after a full day of work is rarely relaxing, especially if a parent is home alone; then there's homework to supervise. I am sure than many men would not switch roles, even if it would cut down their hours at the office substantially.

Anonymous said...

And if you are a father who would like a less demanding lifestyle, there are Orthodox female lawyers and doctors who would probably like a shidduch with such a man. Many couples did not discuss gender and work roles and finances before marriage, which is why there is so much anguish now and so many comments on these threads.

If you signed up to marry an aspiring SAHM with little in the way of professional qualifications, and you're now complaining that she's not working 80 hours like yourself, I don't know why you're complaining.

Anonymous said...

There are also some terrific conservative shuls in more moderately priced areas that remain in vicinity to mikvahs and kosher food stores. The gulf between LWMO and many conservative shuls is not as great as some would believe as long as no mehitza, women in minyans and reading from the torah doesn't bother you. Aspriring Dad who wants to part of his family's life might like the idea of the whole family davening together.

Anonymous said...

tessya -- that's not quite true. I work in a law firm where many men rush home to be home for dinner and homework. Then they get on the computer and work from 9- midnight.
Also, I never said the Moms who don't work 80 hours aren't working as hard as the dads. The difference, is they get to be home with the kids some of the time which is what aspiring dad wants.

Anonymous said...

Think we will get to 300 comments before Shabbos?

Anonymous said...

In response to Mark, who is concerned that there are too many administrators, etc in the day schools. FYI, I am Anonymous 12:42. Apparently Aspiring Father and I are now infamous on this site...

“I know for an absolute fact that this is untrue for at least 4 schools.”

Do you live in the NY-met area? That’s the only explanation I can think of. It’s not like that in the Midwest.

“The first thing you should do is completely separate the school/tuition part from the charity/scholarship part.”

In the school where I work, and the surrounding ones, it IS a separate organization. In fact, that organization is not even in the same state, let alone community. This is done for anonymity. The problem is that people appeal their allotted scholarships and, as someone else on this blog rightfully said, they abuse it. Many of these people are not living within their means. They cannot afford the houses and the “toys” they purchase and their actual income is belied by the lifestyle they live. So, while the tuition assistance organization may be looking at salaries on paper, what they’re not taking into account is extreme lifestyles and irresponsibility. Day school is a choice, and an expensive one. If it's a priority, then other things shouold not be.

“What else should you do? Well, at some point you are going to have to decide if you are a prep school or a yeshiva.”

So are you willing to give your kids a second rate secular education? I’m not, and I doubt your cohorts are. Especially since they’re being asked to go into professions that can accommodate sending their kids to tuition. Last time I checked, the “which ivy league school are you going to?” game was alive and well at most MO Jewish high schools. Less so in the Midwest, but still.

“What kind of statement is this? Of course they are not learning Judaism, it's a public school, and religion is not permitted!!!”

It’s a statement of fact, nothing more. For people who are looking at charter schools as an alternative to day school, they should know it is not a way to give your kid a Jewish education. Diversity, yes. Hebrew, yes. No tuition, yes. But if the Jewish education piece is not important, then this whole conversation is irrelevant anyway.

“I won't blame them if you can explain to me why we need so many of them (the administrators).”

As I said, I don’t know where you live. It’s simply not the reality here.

Aspiring Father said...

Tesyaa indicated that it's too bad that I need to live in a town without a Jewish community, due both to finances and the derekh eretz in which I want to raise kids (that is to say "Torah Im Derekh Eretz" with a normal American derekh eretz rather than an Academic Achievement Und Kareer Und Haus Und Automobile Uber Alles derekh eretz).

In response, I should make it clear what my rough goal is: I have a specific town in mind that is immediately adjacent to (borders on) a very, very thoroughly Jewish town. This is significantly far away from the New York area. I'd prefer not to be geographically specific beyond that.

The town that I have in mind (indeed, it's the town that I grew up in, but there are other similar towns also nearby) has no significant Jewish presence--no shuls. However, the town next door has more shuls than it has churches. It has multiple Orthodox shuls, each with daily minyanim. While I prefer an Orthodox shul when I go to one, that town also has a wide variety of other shuls as well. All of this in a town that nobody could mistake for a city.

Now, I can't raise a family in the Jewish town. That's out of the question due to both the preposterously high cost of living in that town, and the derekh eretz that prevails in that town. But it has all of the resources.

My goal is to live one town away from all of those resources and use every bit of them that I am able. No regular shabbos at one of the shuls? Fine, I'll take the kids, myself, to minyan most nights or most mornings. Kosher food won't be a problem at all. From the house I grew up in, it is less than 10 minutes to the mikveh in the Jewish town. And tutoring? More rabbis, with more hashkafas, in the town next door than in any town of comparable size in this country.

Some of you may know the town that I'm referring to--it's a rather unique phenomenon. My goal is not to live in isolation from the Jewish community. My goal is to live near the Jewish community, but not in the Jewish community. I have to believe that it is possible to make such a setup work.

Anonymous said...

Is it right to use a minyan and not contribute to a shul through dues or any other way? Maybe temporarily, but on a permanent basis, is this ethical?

Aspiring Father said...

Tesyaa asked whether it is ethical to use a minyan and not contribute to a shul through dues or any other way.

An ethical arrangement, whatever ethical might be, could be set up on this point. The details of it would just be speculation at this point, but there's no reason why we couldn't support a shul to a reasonable extent.

But if you're asking whether I'll ever be in a financial position to single-handedly pay for the inscription of a sefer torah? Ha. Not in this lifetime, unless you have a knack for lottery numbers and can help me out with some insight!

Cassandra said...

The first thing you should do is completely separate the school/tuition part from the charity/scholarship part. The school will determine what the tuition needs to be, and it will be a fixed amount for all. A separate organization, having nothing to do with the school (yes, it must have different board members, etc) will decide how much charity to dole out to the families that request such charity. And the community, plus external fundraising if possible, will fund that organization.

This is the most useful suggestion made in this entire thread. It's practical--it can actually be done--and it would have a large, positive effect. Nor does it require radical changes or leaps of faith into untested schooling systems. It's a good idea that would work. Not perfect, though; there would be losers in such a system, and some unpleasant artifacts, but the overall effect would be good.

Which is why it will never happen. I'm not joking. The frum world is so dysfunctional, full of special- and self-interest in the status quo, economically lopsided, and ideologically blinkered that we will more likely experience a painful implosion and difficult rebuilding than smart, effective, and preemptive action to the inevitable.

It's hopeless. The disasters (yes, plural) are going to happen, one after another, while the frum world talks and talks itself into hysteria, but dpes nothing until the time for that action has long passed. In some cases we've already gotten there.

Alan said...

The local Rabbis in Teaneck don't really care. Trust me. I know what I am talking about. They simply do not care. That is all I can say on that issue without revealing my identity.

Having said that, there are some basic solutions that full-tuition paying parents can take that will have immediate impact; but it involves organization and a willingness to do something bold. For example we must demand an end to:
1) having more than 1 teacher in a classroom (except for your nursery and pre-k of course)
2) having some children learn hebrew subjects in the afternoon and english in the morning as this will drastically cut down on the payroll
3) cease treating our yeshivas as the local employment agency for mommys who want to teach there a few hours a week so that there kids go for free or at a heavily subsidized rate
4) stop giving scholarships; force parents who can't afford tuition to raise the money privately.
5) At the very least, if step 4 is too radical, then eliminate scholarship abuse. This means that you are not allowed a scholarship if you have any of the following: a house worth more than $450k, a car worth more than $15k, you are not permitted any vacations and quite frankly I don't even want to see you put meat in your chulent.
6) There should be one and only one administrator in a school. We don't need 4-5 administrators each presu,ably making six-figure salaries.

Finally, please do not give a penny to NNJKIDS. NNJKIDS is nothing more than a bandaid that will make the patient suffer longer. We need the patient to bleed out and die so that we can start from scratch and build a local yeshiva that the average family can afford. It is absolutely sickening that you need to make well over $200-250k to be able to pay tuition for 2-3 kids. If you have 4 or more kids than you likely are on scholarship unless you are making serious money. (And please don't nit pick if I am a little off on these numbers. The point is that you need to make more than 99% of the population to make ends meet b\c of yeshiva tuition.)
I hope these administrators know that it is on their heads that so many jewish souls will not be born because of the tuition they charge. I suspect that G-d will hold them accountable in the Next World for the pain and suffering they are causing all of us.

Shalom said...

The folllowing is my 5 day plan for Noam, YNJ and Yavenh to lower tuition by 50% by the end of the week:

Monday 1/4/10: Fire all the assistant teachers except for those in nursery and pre-k

Tuesday 1/5/10 - Fire all the administrators except for 1 per school (not 1 for hebrew, 1 for english, 1 for pre-school, 1 for special ed.....)

Wednesday 1/6/ - fire all the secretaries except for 1 secretary for the main office and 1 secretary for the business office. Included in this firing is gym teachers, computer teachers, librarians etc... Mommies of children on scholarship will fill in these roles.

Thursday 1/7/10 - Combine classes so that some children learn english in the morning and hebrew in the afternoon. This will allow us to fire lots of teachers thereby cutting down on waste. Don't worry, your kid will be just as "frum" even if he learns hebrew in the afternoon.

Friday 1/8/10 - Eliminate all scholarships for all families who have housekeepers, drive cars that are worth more than $15k, go out to eat more than once every 6 months, send their kids to camp, do renovations of any type in their house, give charity to any organization while their kids are on scholarship, and the list goes on and on.

If the Bergen County schools take these simple steps we can all go into Shabbos a great deal happier next week.

Gut Vach to all.

Avi said...

The reason why splitting tuition assistance from the schools won't happen is because of the mentality that Anonymous 12:42 espouses: "the mission of day schools, which is that every Jewish child should receive a Jewish education, no matter what his or her parents can afford. It is a system with a mission built in."

It's time to separate the mission from the school. The goal of a school - and its board - should be to educate children in a cost-effective manner. That means cutting back on vice principals of English and vice principals of Hebrew. That means eliminating all tuition breaks for staff (and paying better salaries if the market demands it). An alternative might be allowing staff tuition breaks, but only for full time staff (i.e., hire a smaller number of full time teachers at higher salaries rather than multiple part time teachers, each of whom gets a tuition break).

The goal of a separate tzedaka organization should be to ensure that as many children as possible get a Jewish education. With lower costs at the schools, many people who need scholarships today will not need them any more. Our young adults choosing a career path will have a clear idea of what is required of them (I hear all the time, "Nobody can pay tuition, I'll just get scholarships"). But with a different mandate than the individual schools, this organization will have the opportunity to optimize its funds by providing scholarships only to the lower cost, more efficient schools (and if that doesn't meet the parents' specific hashkafa, tough. It's tzedaka). However, the reason this is so dangerous to the status quo is that it will become abundantly clear if the community can raise enough money to cover everyone who wants to send their kids to day schools. It may not be possible. At that point, this organization will be forced to fund after school programs and tutoring, which are badly needed but don't have Rabbinic support today because the fear is that anything that legitimizes public school in any form is assur, as it siphons kids away from the day schools. Which is going to happen anyway if tuition costs don't start falling.

Anonymous said...

Thinking long and hard about public school these days.

aml said...

We made the plunge Anon 7:33... let me know if you wanna discuss.

Anonymous said...

aml - Can you tell me where you live? Just curious. (looking for a county here, nothing more specific)

aml said...

I dont live in the NYC area. We're in DC.

Anonymous said...

Anon 2:57 PM - “I know for an absolute fact that this is untrue for at least 4 schools.”

Do you live in the NY-met area? That’s the only explanation I can think of. It’s not like that in the Midwest.


I do not live in the NY Metro area (though I did grow up there).

“The first thing you should do is completely separate the school/tuition part from the charity/scholarship part.”

In the school where I work, and the surrounding ones, it IS a separate organization. In fact, that organization is not even in the same state, let alone community. This is done for anonymity.


You misunderstand me. I mean COMPLETELY separate, as in the money not mingled whatsoever, other than the charity organization remitting the balance of the tuition to the school. That way, the school receives the exact same amount of tuition for each student.

The problem is that people appeal their allotted scholarships and, as someone else on this blog rightfully said, they abuse it. Many of these people are not living within their means. They cannot afford the houses and the “toys” they purchase and their actual income is belied by the lifestyle they live. So, while the tuition assistance organization may be looking at salaries on paper, what they’re not taking into account is extreme lifestyles and irresponsibility. Day school is a choice, and an expensive one. If it's a priority, then other things should not be.

Start tossing some of those kids out and lets see if the parent change their priorities. And if they don't change, then perhaps their kids don't belong in yeshiva, instead they can worship the almighty dollar like their parents are teaching them.

“What else should you do? Well, at some point you are going to have to decide if you are a prep school or a yeshiva.”

So are you willing to give your kids a second rate secular education? I’m not, and I doubt your cohorts are. Especially since they’re being asked to go into professions that can accommodate sending their kids to tuition. Last time I checked, the “which ivy league school are you going to?” game was alive and well at most MO Jewish high schools. Less so in the Midwest, but still.


My comment was in response to you making your school attractive to non-Orthodox (in competition with prep schools). But I do understand the problem!

“What kind of statement is this? Of course they are not learning Judaism, it's a public school, and religion is not permitted!!!”

It’s a statement of fact, nothing more. For people who are looking at charter schools as an alternative to day school, they should know it is not a way to give your kid a Jewish education. Diversity, yes. Hebrew, yes. No tuition, yes. But if the Jewish education piece is not important, then this whole conversation is irrelevant anyway.


The discussion is about people to whom Jewish education is a priority, though the money isn't there for it at current rates.

“I won't blame them if you can explain to me why we need so many of them (the administrators).”

As I said, I don’t know where you live. It’s simply not the reality here.


Then I can only assume that tuition rates are much lower where you live. Good for you! Here it's $15k a kid in grade school, $21k a kid in high school.

Mark

Trying hard in Teaneck said...

Shalom,

You have some good suggestions. But as you know, it is not so simple.

My kids who go to one of the schools you mentioned already learn English in the morning and Hebrew in the afternoon so that suggestion won't help the school. And I am not certain what my kids are going to do while I am at work during the summer if not go to day camp. Last time I checked, child labor laws preclude sending children under the age of ten out to work.

Honestly Frum said...

NNJ Kids are the only ones trying to make significant changes, unless you have a better idea they are going to be the ones to implement the changes. I have much more to say on this issue in the coming days. One last comment on this is that people in our communities who are making the decisions are reading the blogs and comments don't think you do not have a voice.

Anonymous said...

If I am going to be applying for scholarship in the coming years (b\c I know I will be switching to a lower-paying job), should I be sure to spend down my discretionary cash (about $100k) on renovations to my house or paying down the mortgage. If I don't spend this money, will the scholarship committee not tell me to use this to pay tuition?

I have been the fool paying full tuition while watching the neighbors on scholarship go on vacations. Now it is time to turn the tables and play the game the way the others do. I'll stop playing when the folks running these schools change the rules of game and stop punishing those of us who work hard and save.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous: Why are you switching to a lower paying job? Is it because you believe you won't take home any less because you will get tuition assistance?

I understand why you feel like a fool for not gaming the system, but instead of feeling like a fool, be proud of doing the right thing and setting a good example for your children.

I hate Bergen County Tuition said...

"I understand why you feel like a fool for not gaming the system, but instead of feeling like a fool, be proud of doing the right thing and setting a good example for your children."

I'd rather take a job that allows me to see my kids during the week than "be proud" to pay full tuition like a sucker.

Anonymous said...

Honestly Frum - NNJ Kids are the only ones trying to make significant changes

Which significant changes are they trying to make?

Please keep in mind that collecting more money from the community doesn't count as a "significant change", every single organization attempts to do that all the time.

Mark

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:37 a.m., it's definitely possible that giving up your liquidity could be hazardous. There's no guarantee that schools won't require you to dig into home equity or 401(k) savings for tuition - I hear some schools do that already.

If both spouses aren't currently employed, it might make more sense for both parents to work reasonable schedules, instead one one working 80+ hours per week.

Also, when you are on scholarship - your neighbors will look at you the same way you look at scholarship families. Your every spending move will be scrutinized by the masses.

Honestly Frum said...

NNJ Kids is trying to change the funding model and they are working on setting up an endowment. Change will not come overnight, nor should they be the only ones taking action however their long term goal of changing the burden from a parental focus to a communal one is seems much more sustainable than how the current system is set up. What amazes me is that everyone is yelling that we need a change and a solution and when NNJ Kids comes along and tries to do something about the problem, all people do is dismiss them, mostly based on misinformation.

Anonymous said...

Honestly Frum: Does NNJ Kids, which you support, make any limitations on which schools/students get funding. Wouldn't help if they said we will only give to schools (i) with a student to faculty ratio of least X; (ii) where administrators make no more than Y including benefits, etc. (iii) where there is an independent board of directors; (iv) where the books are open to parents. In other words, there should be some strings attached and incentives for the schools to operate efficiently.

Miami Al said...

If the program gave assistance on a per-child basis, need based, based upon an "assumed" tuition rate near the bottom end of the costs, then NNJ Kids might actually help.

It's still funneling money at the broken schools, and removing accountability (a bad), but if you separate the communal need to fund education from tuition, you do two things:

1. Stop slamming young families -- families that have children young are hitting tuition hurt between 25 and 30, which are minimal earning years... making them subsidize the families of high school children (for K-12 schools) is unreasonable, the young families are hurting, and don't need the costs pushed on them
2. Give an option for help from older generation -- giving to the local school for dinners, etc., may feel good, but warps the market... the schools in the wealthiest areas with the wealthiest residents get the most support, and schools serving the less well-off don't get support. Separating the fund helps there.
3. Tax efficiency -- donations, particularly from those in high tax brackets that are rising, helps. If you donate an appreciated stock, you avoid the capital gain (15%), and get a Federal deduction (close to 40% in 2011), and any state deductions. That means that for every dollar a wealthy donor puts in, the government matches it a dollar. When you do hidden donations through the tuition, that is NOT tax deductible. That's a BIG difference.

Funding scholarship via tuition dollars is a tax inefficient method that charges those that can least afford it. It also creates deadweight loss because it removes the incentive to make more money from young families. Families in their 20s and 30s should be able to make the major moves that can increase earning power (job hopping, more schooling, etc.) but not if the schools tax them 100%.

NNJ Kids is NOT the solution, but it might help.

Anonymous said...

>>"Right-wing or charedi families will never accept limiting of families."<<

I believe a survey many years ago showed that charedim in Williamsburgh had more kids than in Boro Park, who in turn had more kids than those in Flatbush.

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