Got Orthonomics in your Email Box?

Monday, January 31, 2011

Small Rant

Excuse a disgruntled and jumbled up post. Apologies in advance. I'm really not having a bad day.

The brief before the rant: I am getting really, really tired hearing about how "we" get nothing education wise for our tax dollars and how "we" are doubly taxed. 1. Everyone pays taxes. 2. Private Schooling is actually a choice. 3. "We" actually do receive some services, although the amount varies by state and locale.

The Englewood and Teaneck school district just received approval for the funding of a Hebrew-immersion charter school program (which is prompting a number of news stories that I'm afraid I won't be keeping up with) and a local Rabbi went on record saying the following: "Part of what motivates this [hand ringing over tuition] is the reality that we are being doubly taxed. Our property taxes are paying for the maintenance of the public schools, and we're paying tuition for the private schools."

Let's get one thing straight. Everyone pays property tax, directly or indirectly. Everyone pays property tax and other taxes funding education including those who will never have kids and those who have no intention of ever using the public schools.

I've been paying property taxes (directly) for a long time now. Many of those years, I did not have children. Currently, our children are in private schools. My parents have been paying property taxes (directly) for at least a handful of decades now. They did not have children in public school for the first decade of paying property tax. They have not had a child in public school for over a decade. My grandparents a"h and great-aunts and uncles (may they continue to live and be well, until 120) have been paying property tax for 60 plus years. They have not had children in public schools for over 40 years.

Now, let's get another thing straight: sending to private school is a choice. And I believe that part of "solving" the tuition crisis is to start to view it as a choice, a valuable choice in many cases, but a choice nevertheless.

I think the view that private school is "mandatory" prompts an attitude of entitlement that is not healthy. Perhaps my "small rant" is becoming a "large rant." But the attitude that the schools should accommodate their family (according to what they want to pay/ability to pay) because there are "no choices" is very frustrating. Yes, if you want a religious education for your children you have limited choices. But, when you "throw up your hands" to the schools in negotiation after negotiation months into school, you are leaving those expected to pay their bills with less choices of their own.

But back to the initial subject at hand. . . . there are those who do live in states where private school students receive little in terms of public money for schooling. Perhaps schools receive a little bit here and there for textbooks and computers. And, of course, there are special education services available to those who need them.

But there are other areas of this country where private schools DO receive an incredible amount of services and it is trying to read all the complains about "getting nothing."

I caught this little story on the Lakewood Scoop. I am in disbelief that there are Federal Funds totalling $112,000 being used to pay for a Torah U'Mesorah Shabbaton Retreat for administrators. The funds are reportedly earmarked for remedial education, but can be used for professional development. I cannot tell if this money is for a new conference or the past conference (the Lakewood Board of Education was informed that no religious content will be included in the conference, so it couldn't possibly be the Presidents Conference in Miami that took place recently and for which a Guest Poster offered some comments on my blog, right?). Nonetheless, $112,000 plus busing plus all of the publicly funded special education services isn't "nothing", right?

Quite frankly, I think funding for (public) education has spun out of control. Certainly if Mayor Bloomberg can threaten 21,000 teacher layoffs when NYC school district employs 75,000 teachers (that is a 28% staffing reduction folks), there is some room to cut back.

Nevertheless, I believe in the idea of publicly funded education for all Americans and I hope you won't find me complaining about being "double taxed" even if we never receive a dime in services from our own school district and even if our private school never receives a dime of public money. We're making a choice (better tell myself that now, because the tuition schedule is soon to arrive for 2011-12) and we have more dignity than to get bent out of shape over a choice we are making with complete free will. Better we make our choice b'simcha than fall into an angry and unproductive thought pattern.


Miami Al said...

It would be wonderful if people would see Jewish education as a positive thing that they wish to impart on their children, and full-time Yeshiva as the most comprehensive way to do that.

Somehow, in the last generation, it became "the only way to be Jewish" and everyone else is a heretic, apostate, or worse. As fewer and fewer Orthodox students interact with non-Orthodox people, they get VERY skewed views of the outside world, and all of a sudden, attending a non-Yeshiva school involves pregnant 3rd grades and crack pipes in the cafeteria.

Had this remained "the best" instead of the only, the resentment would be FAR less.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for a wonderful post. You echo my thoughts exactly. I am delighted to know that I live in a country where I get the benefits of having at least a semi-educated population thanks to free universal public schools, even if I never have a child in those schools. We can't have a functioning democracy, a prosperous country or a just society without free public schools.

Complaining about not getting the benefits of public schools because you send your kids to private school is like someone who owns a private helicopter complaining about paying taxes for roads because he always travel by air, ignoring the fact that most of the food and other goods and services he enjoys require functioning roads and bridges.

Chaim said...

People can ask for whatever entitlement they like, but we should be honest and call the movement for subsidized private education by its real name.

My pet peeve are all those folks that argue that vouchers are good for public education. How many of them REALLY care about public education? Are they involved in their local PS school? Do they volunteer, etc?

Let's not play games; the peer reviewed literature conclusively shows that vouchers are not wort the investment. If you want the bacon, ask fr it, don't hide behind platitudes.

Paying Parent said...

I am definitely for publicly funded education. Every child in this country should be educated and the community is responsible for paying for their education. HOWEVER, I resent the lack of choice that is inherent in our flawed public school system that is crippled by mafia-like teacher's unions. I don't understand how it violates Church and State for the secular portion of a parochial school to be funded by tax dollars. If the tax dollars can pay for bussing and books for a parochial school, why can't it pay for the math teacher as well? YES, I understand that it would cost us more in local taxes if the community was responsible for the education of ALL the students in the district. At the same time, P.S. has no accountability. If the school is failing to do its job and is losing students, then it should be consolidated and teachers fired. It reminds me of what used to go on in the 5 towns. Every year PS enrollment would be down and yet they would increase the budget. When there is no competition it is easy to be complacent. They should have to compete with the local private schools for students and funds.

Anonymous said...

Paying parent: There is choice in the public school systems because there is choice in where one lives. (Granted, the poorest don't always have that choice, but I don't think you are complaining about poor school children getting lousy schools.) Also, I think your choice argument is a bit misleading. You aren't rejecting public school because the secular education isn't good enough, you are choosing private school because of religious reasons. If you had a choice of three different public schools for your child, would you still send your kids to private school? Just because some public schools have problems, doesn't mean that the public interest would be served by sending kids to isolationist religious schools that teach that their people are better than others. We have to look beyond our narrow self interests. Would you feel the same way if your tax dollars were supporting radical madrassas that taught hatred of American values?

Paying Parent said...

You act like most religious people are radicals. Many if not most people who grow up with religion in their lives grow up to be contributive and productive members of society. And you are very wrong- I do think that it is lousy that the large middle class of America does not have the option of parochial schools. I think that if the PS had to fight for funds and enrollment they would use their funds more effectively, better serving the poorer segments of society. I don't like that if I want my child to have a parochial education I HAVE to send them to private school. I would teach from home, but I need to work and a private tutor plus public school has almost as much expenses as private school, but without the social benefits. I have no problem with Muslim and Christian schools getting money for their secular subjects as long as those subjects adhere to board of ed standards and students perform over X threshold in assessment exams.

Miami Al said...


There is a choice for middle class families to move to a district that they like for schooling.

There is a choice for upper middle class families that can sacrifice for private schooling.

There is a choice for upper class families that are competing for spots in the best private schools.

The poor are trapped. The public school "system," as opposed to the concept of free public education, has definitely problems.

The argument of "taking money away" from the public school system is from a certain point of view. If every child magically enrolled in a private school, the public school system would collapse, would anyone case? The public school system should be a means to an ends, a way of educating children.

Vouchers mean that SOME amount of money is redirected from public education to wealthy families that would already choose private schooling. Cost A.

Vouchers mean that SOME amount of money is saved by children moving from public to private education based upon the voucher. Savings B.

If A > B, then the amount A - B is the "money taken away from public schooling." However, if you do the econometrics right, you should be able to set the voucher rate such that A = B, making it a costless experiment.

Anonymous said...

Isn't quality yeshiva education in Passaic/monsey/Staten Island 50% less than the yeshiva education in Teaneck?

Why isn't that an option? Or are Teaneck parents unwilling to pursue better value because of a potential perception they are not able to keep up with the Joneses?

Does it have to be full price or free? what about something in the middle?

Dave said...

Charters seem to address the same problem (school competition), with the distinct advantage of far greater public oversight than a Voucher system.

Anonymous said...

Al: Your argument may work for charters or school choice for schools open to all (although the evidence that charters are any better than regular public schools is fading rapidly). However, that is a far cry from public funding for religious schools which are inherently discriminatory.

Anonymous said...

Dave: Paying parent doesn't want to send his kid to a charter, he wants a subsidy for the luxury of sending his kids to private school with his own kind. He is telling his kids that he doesn't really value jewish day school education enough to not resent having to pay for it himself.

Dave said...


In general, test scores at Charter schools and Public schools are comparable.

So yes, there doesn't seem to be a test difference between the two.

That doesn't mean there isn't a difference (unless you think everything devolves to standardized testing). A child going to a Charter with a focus on a foreign language is going to get language skills that the Public School doesn't offer. A child going to a Charter with a focus on Drama (or Music, or Science, or Business, or any of the myriad other themed schools) is going to get an education that matches the Public School in general education performance (in the aggregate -- individual schools may vary) and also includes focused education in their area of special interest.

That's a big plus.

Dave said...

As far as I know, every existing Voucher program required that the school take the Voucher as the entire sum of tuition.

The "Vouchers will save us" crowd have ignored this.

But in all honesty, given the state of the budgets in every State in the Union, vouchers are highly unlikely to pass, even in the States where they are legal.

Anonymous said...

I have two bees in my bonnet. They're swirling around and upsetting my serenity.

1. The Lakewood cheders are taking advantage of lack of supervision and are teaching little to no secular subjects. They don't even effectively teach the children to read. I know because I have close family in Lakewood and the boys emerge from cheder barely literate, with no social studies or history, and no science even at an elementary level. They are unable to contribute to earning a living except perhaps opening a business if they can spare the time from learning. Meanwhile their wives are exhausted from 5 children in five years, and working full time as well as making Shabbos and Yom Tov.

2. I sense an undercurrent in the negativity I read about Teaneck yeshiva day school tuitions. The undercurrent is from men, it's about money, and what I perceive is this: "I got into this in college because of kiruv and my wife really supports yeshiva education. But I didn't buy into having to spend $60,000 a year for tuition and work like a dog and never see my kids. This isn't my idea of religion. I want out! Where's the door? How do I get out of here?"

I sense that these modern Orthodox men want a less all-encompassing Judaism, one that permits public school (good public school) and a less difficult work schedule, with some pleasures in keeping with what nonreligious peers enjoy.


Paying Parent said...

Anon 11:40-
First of all Paying Parent is a she, not a he.
Second of all, I have abolutely no problem sending to a Hebrew charter, except that there is none in my neighborhood, nor is there likely to be considering there is not a very large Jewish population. I happily moved out of Teaneck after only a year of dealing with the narcissistic, entitled snobs that live there.
I also moved after the realization that Yeshivas where I live now would cost me $5000 less per child annually than in Bergen County.
I still do not understand why if yeshivas are given bussing and books, a math teacher is any different. It has nothing to do with the "separateness" of the school. Every child in the US has to learn Math!

Anonymous said...

Paying Parent: My apologies for assuming you were a member of the male species. Perhaps it is because, as a previous comment noted, more of the anger about the yeshiva/day school system seems to be coming from the Dads than the Moms. (At least that is the impression from the chump blog.)

Anyhow, I agree with your point. Its a great argument why there should be no public money for bussing and books for private school. I think one of the problem in paying for teachers is that that if public money is going to hire math teachers, then strict non-discrimination rules and other standards should apply to the hiring of those teachers and the admission of students who get to learn from those teachers. While we permit parents to pull kids from public schools that does not mean that the public should be subsidizing segregation.

Abba's Rantings said...


"our flawed public school system that is crippled by mafia-like teacher's unions."

and the yeshivah system isn't flawed? where i live maybe 2 or 3 of the dozens of jewish schools come near the better local public schools in academics, professionalism, support services, extracurriculars, etc.
in terms of gifted programs there isn't a single jewish school that even comes close. we're talking different planets here.
and no, i don't live in a fancy suburban district.
of course there are some bad public schools where i live too, but if you pick right, your kid will easily get a better education than in yeshivah.
so what you're really interested in isn't a better education, but one that provides for limudei kodesh and one where your kids won't have to mix with goyyim. there's nothing wrong with either of these, but let's be honest here about what you really want.

"P.S. has no accountability."

and jewish schools do?

"If the school is failing to do its job and is losing students, then it should be consolidated and teachers fired"

yes, teacher accountability is a big problem in the public schools. and that's one of the benefits of charter schools. although this could all change very soon in nyc. bloomberg is pushing hard to do away with the union rule "hired last-fired first" for the proposed cuts in order to get rid of incompetent teachers.
of course all this is irrelevant for your argument because it's not like the jewish schools don't consider themselves employment agencies.

"it should be consolidated"

in some areas this does happen. failing schools (particular large high schools) in nyc, for example, are subject to closure and reorganization.

"When there is no competition it is easy to be complacent."

agree 100%, but what does this have to do with giving $ to yeshivos?

Miami Al said...

Abba's Rantings,

In the secular schooling world, there are elite prep schools, remedial schools for rich kids with drug problems to sneak out with a degree, with very little in the middle.

Generally, the middle ground goes into the public school system.

The non-Jewish religious schools do have a "public school alternative" system, particularly the Catholic Schools, for people that want a religious school. They may not have the best academics, but it's decent, and for poor kids struggling to get out of poverty, it's likely a step up.

The Jewish School system has evolved as a quasi public school system, taking all comers, without reflecting upon quality or ability to pay. In Teaneck, it's broken down by EXTREMELY narrow Hashkafic differences..

I think that Anon 11:49 has a pretty good handle on the bait-and-switch Kiruv side. But it's NOT just Kiruv victims, there are plenty of people for traditionally Orthodox homes that did what they were told in school instead of what their parents had done, and found themselves trapped.

abba's rantings said...


"I still do not understand why if yeshivas are given bussing and books, a math teacher is any different."

aside from the basic legal obstacle, let me outline some practical problems
1) many jewish teachers are not properly credentialed and would likely not be approved by the state
2) schools could likely not discriminate in who they hire (will the yeshivah hire the pagan lesbian who comes to work with elbows exposed?)
3) state could insist on curricular control (will the schools teach sex ed., evolution as truth, the palestinian side of the mid-east conflict, comparative religion, etc.?)
4) classroom would have to be religiously neutral--not even a mezuzah. (this is why you will often see kids in yeshivos getting ot in the hallway)
5) in general it invites all sorts of state supervision, which jewish school schools are loathe to agree to (e.g., minimum number if school days, mandatory reporting, etc.)

Paying Parent said...

1) If Yeshivas could pay for the teacher using public funds, obviously they would only hire from an approved pool of teachers. I don't think that any school would have a problem adhering to this. Obviously, if a Yeshiva would not adhere to this they would not qualify for funds.
2) I have no problem with this. My Yeshiva had a non Jewish guy who was obviously gay teaching us Social Studies. Obviously, if a Yeshiva would not adhere to this they would not qualify for funds.
3) In many ways they already do using State exams to determine compliance. My Yeshiva had our science teacher teach us evolution and then a SEPARATE class explaining the religious view of evolution and how science and religion are not mutually exclusive. In World History we did learn about other religions, their beliefs and their histories.
4) Since the mezuzah is not technically inside the classroom, Im not sure that would be an obstacle, adn you can have "multipurpose classrooms" set up for those classes tauht by publicly funded teachers. Im sure that this is a concession that not all, but some schools would consider.
5) Many already are- my school certainly has to abide by minimum days. (I know, becasue it recently became an issue due to the snowstorms).

Anonymous said...

Paying Parent: If you are happy to have your child instructed by an openly gay math teacher who is properly credentialed and be taught science and evolution and not have religious symbols, etc. then isn't the answer to send the kids to public school and do talmud torah after school? If you say its fine for the secular teachers to come to the students, then why not send the students to the secular teachers? The only difference is the religious segregation factor and that simply is not something that should be publicly funded.

abba's rantings said...

1) obviously? they are going to fire the current teachers?
2) it doesn't matter if *you* have a problem with it or not. no self respecting yeshivah (except perhaps for a few real MO schools) will hire that pagan lesbian who doesn't cover her elbows
3) state exams monitor mastery of material, not compliance with curriculum (at least not directly). plenty of yeshivos skip entire chapters in science and social studies curricula. and again, what *you* learned in world history, etc. is irrelevant. our schools are very different now.
4) i'm not a lawyer and am not qualified to quibble over the mezuzah. but in any case the mezuzah is the tip of the iceberg.
5) i don't know where you live, but in nyc private elementary schools are certainly not required to have a minimum number of school days. i also don't know of any school that fingerprints teachers and has a mandatory reporting policy.

in sum, you are describing a set of circumstances under which maybe yeshivos could get more state money. but for the most part, these are not realistic circumstances. when the jewish community lobbies for vouchers, education choice, etc., they just want the money without any strings attached. for example, agudah on the one hand will support "school choice" and then oppose making yeshiah teachers mandatory reporting. we can't have it both ways.

(and anon reminded me about no. 6, how does admission discrimination fit in?)

abba's rantings said...

previous comment was addressed to "paying parent"

Paying Parent said...

First of all, there are no orthodox talmud torah programs (at least not where I live).
An while I would definitely explore an orthodox talmud torah if I ahd the option, there are benefits in Yeshiva that are not found in PS + Talmud Torah (although maybe with a charter):
a) Religous instruction is embedded in the day's structure and not simply tacked on at the end of the day like an afterthought. This is also the danger of a charter.
b) Dress Codes - no pressure for my kid to show up to school with "Juicy" tattooed on the butt of their pants. I believe that Charters are also allowed to have dress codes. I can certainly deal with seeing elbows and knees, but I want my kid to dress like a kid.
c) Without being placed in the context of a "real school system" (no hw or exams) religious instruction risks taking a back seat to other academic instruction.

Miami Al said...

Paying Parent,

A) A charter cannot do this. A charter school can do a Tu B'shevat Party, learning about the Israeli celebration. A charter CANNOT teach your kids to say Brachot before eating. You can learn about the religion in a sterile way during the school day. You will not have any religious controls over science and history.

B) School dress codes is a regional policy issue. However, the "pressure" to dress a certain way is much less severe than you would believe from the anti-public school rants of the Yeshiva world. Every school has different cliques that dress differently, but this is also a middle-to-high school problem, when the charter/TT approach has generally focused on the elementary age.

C) The importance of religious instruction will heavily depend upon parents and the importance that they place on it, it will not be reinforced as an academic subject.

Paying Parent said...

First of all, I am 26- so I dont really buy the "Yeshivas are different now" argument.
I not long ago visited my non jewish gay social studies teacher and the science teacher who always wore mini skirts.
SOME Yeshivas won't abide by it, but some would. They still teach evolution... I checked. I am in nassau county and while I dont know hte exact laws, I know that my kids school cancelled a planned vacation day to meet number of day requirements due to the snowstorms.
Again- NOT ALL YESHIVAS would go for this, but there are a number of them who would. ANd if they are willing to comply to those things, why not? I dont know how much admission comes in to play considering for bussing and books
it seems to be ok.

abba said...

Paying Parent:

i think you're overstating the dress issue in the younger grades. (and by the way, public schools can have dress codes.) but i could be wrong.
however, in the jewish schools (at least the MO schools) there is a different type of (materiliastic and fasion) pressure that is also very unhealthy

AL, Paying Parent:

pertaining to "c," this is why i actually have my doubts as to whether or not public/charter school + talmud torah is a wise communal policy. i think it's the most realistic alternative to the status quo, but i don't think many of it's supporters understand the challenges and responsibilies they will assume.

abba's rantings said...

Paying Parent:

are you sure the vacation day was cancelled in order to conform with a legal requirement?

"NOT ALL YESHIVAS would go for this, but there are a number of them who would."

i just can't imagine that more than a small minority of jewish schools in NYS would agree to the concessions we're debating. the surest way to challenge the state on funding for religious schools is with a broad coalition of such schools. seven MO schools in long island and riverdale like you're describing aren't going to get the state to ammend its constitution.

i don't know about the discrimination issue with bus/books, but i suspect that the yeshivos would lose a test case if challenged? any lawyers in the know out there?

Miami Al said...


Agreed. But that's the defacto result of where things are heading. Charter + Talmud Torah will be a de-emphasis of religious studies compared to the Day School approach, I'm just not sure how much.

On the left wing of things, I see the religious subject matter is culturally denigrated as less important, even if the school day makes them equal.

A charter + talmud torah requires the home to be the center of imparting Yiddishkeit. In fairness, this was the case for the first 3400 years of Jewish history. This is also how Protestants, Catholics, Mormons, and other religious groups promote their religion.

The "biggest" difference that we have compared to other religious groups are:
1. dietary restrictions (though Muslims and Mormons have less extreme ones)
2. behavioral restrictions (Mormons take not working Sundays seriously, but not with the extremes that Shabbat has)
3. foreign language requirement: our religious texts are written in foreign languages and translations introduce interpretation (Muslims have this problem as well, with a need for Arabic)

The theory with the Hebrew Language charter is that #3 is removed, and #1 and #2 are common enough in the school that the kids aren't weirdos.

But as a communal solution? It puts the parents in the drivers seat as far as religious values. I think that this would be a good thing, but if I was a Rosh Yeshiva in the Status Quo, I would think that this is a terrible thing.

Paying Parent said...

I am very pro charter and am interested in how the Bergen County charter progresses.
It is not "solve-all" solution, and I still have my concerns, but it is something that I would explore if it was in my district.

Abbas rantings said...

Paying parent:

Btw, I just got an email frOm my sOn's old school (still on their mailing list) that a vacation day was cancelled because of all the snow days. I know for a fact that private elementary schools here don't have to have a minimum number of days. Is it 2/11 for you also?

Paying Parent said...

More than 1- 2/11 and 12/31

Mark said...

Miami Al - School dress codes

Ben Gamla Charter Schools in Florida have a uniform.

abba;s rantings said...


2/11 wasn't a full vacation day, but rather a faculty in service day with no classes for students. so restoring classes on 2/11 wouldn't help per any legal requirements for minumum number of days (which doesn't exist anyway for yeshivah elementary schools) because it's already considered a school day (can have up to 4 faculty in service days per year that count as school days).
so the reason they added back classes that day is because teacher have to come in anyway, so no backlash from teachers that they have to come in an extra day.
and its only half a day (friday) anyway.

Commenter Abbi said...

"2) it doesn't matter if *you* have a problem with it or not. no self respecting yeshivah (except perhaps for a few real MO schools) will hire that pagan lesbian who doesn't cover her elbows"

I think there is a difference between MO schools and more right wing yeshivas. The MO elem school I went had plenty of non Jewish teachers (my favorite teacher was Mrs. McGivern in first grade). My MO high school I think had mostly Jewish teachers, come to think of it, but plenty of elbows (one history teacher came out as gay after he stopped teaching there). But then again, I'm 35, so maybe i'm dating myself.

Just because you don't mind your kids being taught by non Jews doesn't mean you don't want your kids in a Jewish school environment, with plenty of Jewish enrichment throughout the curriculum. That's why nondenominational Jewish schools are a growing phenomenon as well. It's not either/or.

abba's rantings said...


"plenty of elbows"

you know very well that your high school is not typical of jewish high schools, MO or otherwise. it is one the few "real MO" schools i referred to.
and yes, you are dating yourself :)

"with plenty of Jewish enrichment throughout the curriculum"

yes. although there really isn't any jewish enrichment in the non-limude kodesh curriculum itself, but rather in the general daily environment. public/charter school parents have to be prepared to compensate for this at home as much as possible.

"a growing phenomenon"


Anonymous said...

Part of the problem is that many Orthodox Jews view themselves as not being part of the larger community. They don't see how good public schools benefit our country as a whole or, on a local level, property values in their own town. Non-Orthodox Jews are often among the biggest supporters of the public school system and, believe it or not, actually vote to increase their taxes to support local schools even if their kids go to a non-Jewish private school. In some areas this difference has actually led to conflicts between Orthodox and non-Orthodox Jews, as non-Orthodox Jews worry that an influx of Orthodox Jews might ruin the quality of local schools because they won't vote to support an adequate level of school funding. It is also interesting that this same group of Orthodox Jews is often the first to conplain about not qualifying for a "free" breatfast or lunch program for their children or play games to get food stamps or Section 8 housing.
Government Paid Case Manager

Paying Parent said...

Government Paid Case Manager-
I don't think that there are many people in the MO community playing games with Section 8 housing or trying to qualify for free meal programs. That sounds like a Yeshivish/ Chareidi thing. Most MO people work (or are in the job market and are plain unlucky). They believe that a community should have decent public schools, but they do not believe that a district can take advantage of the fact that more students in the district are enrolling in private school to be wasteful with taxpayers money. And in some districts raising the budget has proved to be throwing good money after bad.
Take the 5 towns for example-
For years they would raise the school budget 5% each year- this is despite the fact that the schools had decreasing enrollment every year. In fact, the school had half of the population it did in the 80s. They would sign obnoxiously high salary contracts with the teachers union, despite some of the lowest academic performances on Long Island. Even the services that private school kids were entitled to were made difficult to access.

Anonymous said...

The situation varies depending on the area that you live in. I live in the mid-west and the local Yeshiva identifies itself as being "Centrist" in its orientation. This Yeshiva has approx 750 students of which 40 percent receive a free or subsidized lunch or breakfast. I know this because although I am not Orthodox, I work for a local state aid office located 1 mile from the Yeshiva. We found that several of the parents were paid in cash to avoid taxes and thereby qualify for government benefits. These parents also were the same ones who complained loudly about having to stand in line "with a bunch of schvatzahs" to see my supervisor who happens to be an African American woman. They actually thought that she wouldn't know what the word ment, and tried to cover for themselves after she was offended by telling herthat it just ment Black in Yiddish. By the way, they were clearly using the word as an insult and did not use any other Yiddish terms which would suggest that they were Yiddish speakers.
Government Paid Case Manager

Anonymous said...

Not all public schools are bad. It often depends of the level of educational commitment in a community and the willingness to adequately fund programs. In my area, we have award winning schools and many of the kids go to good colleges. There parents value education and hold the school accountable. The teachers are well paid, but you need to offer a good wage to keep talented teachers. I hate to say this, but I really don't think that many Orthodox Jews recognize that education is the key to upward mobility in our socient because they don't want to be upwardly mobile. Also my impression is that modern orthodoxy in decline for this reason.

Anonymous said...

Government Case Manager: What happened to the parents caught cheating and the employers who paid them under the table? Were they prosecuted?

JS said...

First off, spot on in your analysis of the two problems: everyone pays property tax and private school is a choice. In this regard, I think these complaints coming out of the MO world indicate a profound disengagement from the society with which they supposed to be engaging. It's attitudes like this that make me question whether Modern Orthodoxy is all that modern anymore. Surely "modern" means more than working in a secular work environment - but, unfortunately, for most Modern Orthodox Jews, it seems it means little more than this and wearing jeans. Very sad.

I find the entire concept of a "Jewish environment" to be very interesting. It has somehow become accepted that an all-inclusive and immersive Jewish environment is necessary if we are to stay on the derech and that this is absolutely critical for the first 18+ years of life. You can see this in Rabbi Prager's article:

"Jewish youth need strong, integrated American Jewish identities, which they will not be able to develop in a Hebrew-language charter school. Day-school parents know how much their children benefit from the sense of self and belonging gained from being immersed, with their Jewish peers, in Jewish calendar, songs, texts, celebrations, and values. Once these traditions become part of children’s identity, day-school graduates can constructively and confidently join their fellow Americans on college campuses and in the professions, bringing their full selves — their American identity and the richness of Judaism — to the public square."

It seems to me that according to Rabbi Prager, for whatever reason, merely being around and learning secular subjects with non-Jews somehow destroys a Jewish child's sense of self and belonging and prevents a child from establishing a Jewish identity. I find this bizarre. I further don't understand how learning about the Jewish calendar, songs, texts, celebrations and values in an after-school program with one's Jewish peers is not a substitute. The all or nothing attitude is wrong-headed in my opinion.

Prager continues:
"This inculcation of beliefs and values cannot occur in a charter school. If the Shalom school promotes itself as legally required, it will attract a diverse student body, including non-Jews seeking an alternative to weak public schools. When a Jewish day-school teacher says “we,” she might be referring to all Americans, all Jews, or American Jews — all these are parts of the American Jewish identity shared in the room. But in charter schools, “we” can mean only Americans. The message to Jewish children in the room is that “we” are Jews at home and Americans in public."

Somehow being with non-Jews will make Jewish children think of themselves as only being Jewish at home and Americans everywhere else. I just don't get it.

But, this attitude seems prevalent throughout Orthodoxy and Rabbi Prager is executive director of Avi Chai and sits on an MO school board.

Anonymous said...

We had to make a list of the parents we suspected of being paid under the table and send them to our state auditing agency. I was told that if they are found guilty of tax evasion the most likely outcome will be that they will be ineligible for state benefits and face a fine. I personally think this is unlikely, but my supervisor also said they could be sent to jail time. I do not know what if anything might happen to the employers. I might add that one guy actually said that he didn't see the harm in what he was doing because "everybody does it," and he even offered to give my supervisor a list of names if she would leave him out of the investigation.
Government Paid Case Manager

Anonymous said...

My son goes to a local Yeshiva. He has ADHD, and I know that we can have our local public school distract evaluate if he has a learning disability to free. His principal talked me out of doing this and insisted that I have a private neuropsychologist test him. The problem is that his will cost $2500 and my insurance will not pay for it because it's considered educatonal testing. It made me wonder what other services were avaiable that the principal talks other people out of.

Aba of an ADHD kid

Anonymous said...

Why didn't he want the public school district to evaluate him?

Anonymous said...

He said that he didn't want outsiders coming into the school which made me nervous that maybe our school might be doing something the state wouldn't approve of. My son spends a lot of time sitting in the hall and can't read although he is in second grade.

Aba of an ADHD kid

Abba said...

Aba of an ADHD kid:

please don't take this the wrong way and i apologize in advance for offering armchair advice on a difficult situation about which i'm not informed of any particulasr . . .

perhaps your son is in the wrong school if on the one hand they let him slide to 2nd grade without learning to read and on the other hand they are impeding your efforts to reactify the situation in a reasonable manner?

only 3 possible responses to the principal imho:
1) fine, but let the school reduce my tuition accordingly.
2) screw you, who in the hell are you to tell me which doctors my kid can see? you had better make damned well sure that any "outsider" who comes to help my son will be afforded every courtesy by the school. otherwise you will have more outsiders coming to investigte this school than in your worst nightmare.
3) le-hitra'ot

Anonymous said...

Aba, please work on getting your child the help he needs. Many very frum people use services provided by the public schools. Where there's a will, there's a way.

Orthonomics said...

Aba of an ADHD kid,

Please excuse my comments. They come from a place of deep caring. We have dealt with some academic issues, but have had a completely opposite experience with the teachers/admin.

Not being able to read is by mid second grade is a very serious issue. I am of the opinion that when a child falls behind in an area that is so critical, you have an emergency situation on your hands.

If you child is spending his time out in the halls and is not reading, I'd exercise Abba's 3rd option of l'hitraot. Our experience has been that when a kid falls behind in a critical area, the school reaches out to the parent and an action plan is created. Seems as though your school is putting up barriers and (this might sound harsh) is in a cover their rear mode, rather than a how can we tackle this issue best mode.

Get the help you think you need and worry about the fallout later.

And, you might want to go observe the school for a few days immediately. There is nothing like being within the confines of a school for a good period of time to learn what is going on. I've observed in each environment my kids have been in and I think it is a warning sign if a school is resistant to that.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your advice. I have scheduled a meeting with my son's principal. He already warned me that my son is a trouble maker and suggested that we should talk about his lack of respect, and he suggested that if my son respected his teacher more then he would be able to read.

Aba of an ADHD kid

Anonymous said...

Good luck with your meeting Aba of an ADHD kid. I am troubled by the notion of blaming a 7 year old for his not being able to read. That sounds rather defensive to me. I have never heard of a professional educator linking the ability of a 7 year old to read to respect for a teacher.

E.P. said...

Aba of ADHD child: Please take to heart the issue of respectful behavior for your child. If your child does not behave politely to the teacher, the teacher will not have interest in motivating or helping your child. You can motivate the teacher and principal at no cost by speaking of and treating the teacher and principal with respect and making sure your son does too. I know everyone is going to jump on me and say I am blaming the victim. But in the workplace we are taught to be respectful to everyone in order to work well together. Nothing gets done if someone is disrespectful because the person who is disrespected becomes unmotivated. The teacher will avoid helping your child if he/she perceives your child is disrespectful. Positive motivation is key, and your son's teacher is being given negativity.

Anonymous said...

E.P.: I'm sure you did not intend your post to be insulting, but I, for one, assume that aba (and ima) do try to teach their child to be respectful toward his teachers and others. The problem is you have a very young child with adhd and potentially other learning/developmental issues that the school doesn't want an expert coming in to diagnose. What the principal and teacher may perceive as disrespect may be the symptoms of this child's condition, such as inability to sit still or focus or follow directions. The principal and teacher need to put their egos aside --- its not about them. If they can't do that, they don't belong in early childhood education. Their jobs are to find ways to help even the most difficult students even if they don't get the gratification of a child smiling adoringly at them saying "Yes, Rabbi, Yes Morah."

anon426 said...

I was recently told by my new pediatrician that ADHD and short fuses (my son has both it seems) frequently go hand in hand.

So if your son is ADHD and cannot yet read AND is already being labelled as a troublemaker I say time to pull out all the stops. We are in a school the last few years that recognized for the first timee my son's learning issues. We are still trying to figure how to deal with this but the SCHOOL is one of the most important players.

If your son's school can't handle this, you should perhaps look for a new one.

BTW -- our new pediatrician is a "developmental pediatrician" who specializes in behavior and development. I never heard of this specialty before, but it may be worth looking into.

Anonymous said...

Public schools have many more resources for dealing with kids with learning and behavior issues. Decide if you would rather have your child grow up to be a yeshiva-educated adult with social, emotional, or intellectual issues, or an adult who spent some time in public school as a child but has the coping skills and abilities to be a fully functioning, independent person.

Anonymous said...

My heart is breaking for this child. If I were a seven year old put in a classroom where the lessons are premised on and geared to students having some ability to read and I hadn't mastered any of the basics I would be lost and acting out too. Couching this as a respect problem is nothing more than blaming the victim. If there is a respect problem, its the school not respecting this child and his parents.

Anonymous said...

Frum parents who would do anything to help a child with medical issues will often not even consider public school if a child has a major educational issue.

Anonymous said...

Someone, anyone, please tell me what the crime is with public schooling?

What, specifically, is the objection?

(I'm not trying to rant here, I'm asking an honest question.)

tesyaa said...

Anon - this is the thinking, in no particular order. Not necessarily my OWN thinking.

1) Kids get an inferior Judaic education if they go to public school and study Torah after school

2) Kids get the perception that Judaic studies is not as important as secular studies if they go to public school and study Torah after school

3) Kids will rebel against studying Torah if it takes the place of fun and relaxing after school activities and downtime

4) Kids who go to public school will be unduly influenced by non-religious and non-Jewish beliefs and attitudes

Did I cover this one, for the most part?

E.P. said...

I know of a deaf child who was sent to public school to obtain better services. The child attended public school from first to sixth grade because a deaf interpreter was provided and this was not available at Bais Yaakov. It was essential that the child get the basic 3R's education, and the home provided the Jewish content. There was also a morah teaching the child on Sundays. The child was mainstreamed to Bais Yaakov in 7th grade, did well, and is a frum married lady with children today who communicates well and works in an increasingly responsible job.

My point is public school is definitely to be considered so that your child gets the help he needs.

Chaim said...

I was LD and there were no services for me in the Orthodox school system in Chicago in the 1970's Thank G-d my parents had the courage to place me in a non Jewish special ed school.

I made it to the PhD level at a top research university (ABD).

Without the courage of my parents I doubt I would have completed high school!

Not to self promote, but I speak on that subject:

Mark said...

tesyaa - 3) Kids will rebel against studying Torah if it takes the place of fun and relaxing after school activities and downtime

And somehow they won't rebel against a school day that end at 4:30, and twice a week at 5:45 due to mishmar, and often even has Sunday morning classes. Right.

Abba's Rantings said...


in a yeshivah everyone is equal. they might not like going to mishmar, but they all have to go. it's not like they're missing out on something their classmates are doing, which is the situation in public school.

i don't see this as a problem in younger grades, but i see how can it become a problem in later years.

E.P. said...

I am the one who was given the benefit of the doubt by Anon. 10:57 a.m. today, who kindly told me that he or she did not think I deliberately intended to be insulting. I appreciate being given the benefit of don l'kop zechus. It is touching to me that you feel I have been insulting, but nonetheless you do not judge me harshly, you have sufficient sensitivity to consider me simply wrong, not deliberately rude.

What did I do that elicited this elaborate apologium? I introduced the heretical idea that if you teach your child to be respectful to the teacher, you will get better results. I have no idea if you are doing so or not since I don't know you, but I certainly didn't mean this revolutionary idea of treating teachers like human beings doing their best and deserving of a modicum of civility - I did not realize I had deeply insulted the sensitive posters on this blog. Sensitive in that your tender egos are so shaky that the mere suggestion that you may have contributed in some way to a problem threatens you so much that you lash out with the elaborate "I'm sure you didn't mean to be insulting." I'm sure you didn't mean to be rude, you were merely threatened by my temerity in voicing an idea that you could not bear to entertain - tht something you may be doing might contribute to the problem.

Do you put down the school and the teacher at home? Maybe not, maybe you are totally supportive of the school in the presence of your child. But if you disrespect school, principal or parents in your children's hearing, they will learn that disrespect is acceptable, indeed admirable and a show of independence and superiority.

Sorry, I don't go along with the mainstream way of thinking that no one with problems can control their behavior. We had two disruptive children in our building whose abusive mother was clearly contributing to her children being wild and uncontrollable in the public spaces. I gently told the building management about this family. The building manager gently let the mother know that unless she can persuade her children to be respectful in public, she would next be living across town in the public housing project. She did a complete about-face. Those children are now well behaved. She doesn't open her mouth to yell at them in the lobby as she used to.

ADHD? I thought those children had it, but with the proper incentive (they'd be removed to public housing) somehow all three managed to clean up their act.

I know ADHD is a diagnosis, but behaving badly in class is behvior that can be modified without drugs.

Please do attack me y'all, I can take it, and I'd love to learn something new, or if not, then I will relish the pleasure of refuting your veiled accusations that I am insulting because I tell the truth.

Anonymous said...

Dear EP:
Just because you initially thought the children in question had ADHD does not mean that they had ADHD. A child with ADHD is not going to just suddenly shape up because their mother changes her parenting style, and I agree that medication alone is not the answer. Many behaviors that appear disrespectul in a young child could very well be connected to ADHD which is a very real and well studied medical problem. The father who raised the issue wanted an evaluation to help him find out what was going on with his son. The issue seemed to be that their was concern that the principal might not have been handling things as well as he could have. By the way I have heard many teachers actually say that ADHD does not really exist and then go on to blame the child or family for a medical problem.
Child Psychologist

Anonymous said...

At this point in time, with all of the research that's out there and the number of educational conferences available for teachers to learn about ADHD, it is inexcusable that a teacher or principal no less should state that they do not believe in ADHD. This actually very rarely happens in the public school system, however, my professional experience is that this happens all of the time at Yeshivot. A lot if this I think is because a lack of education on the part of teachers and administrators and a closed minded approach to education. It's almost like going back to the 1950s when I make a school visit, and I hate to say it but I'm probably one the the psychologists that a principal would not want coming in for a meeting. By the way in our area a secular studies principal actually told my patients mother that my advice could not be trusted because Im't not obsevant and that all non-observatnt Jews "hate" the Yeshiva system.
Child Psychologist

Anonymous said...

EP: No one is disagreeing with the concept that children (and adults) need to be respectful to one another and that doing so gets better results. The problem is that you were assuming that lack of respect by the child is what was causing this child's complete inability to read when it is extremely unlikely that there is a correlation. A complete inability to read indicates there is something else going on here. The lack of respect is the school's lack of respect for this child, his parents and for outside expertise. It is obvious that the school is not capable of diagnosing and addressing this child's problem, but they can't seem to admit that and get him the professional evaluation he needs.

Anonymous said...

Dear E.P: Your post was insulting. A concerned father writes in about his child who cannot read and you assumed that the problem was that the child and parents were not respectful. Did you mean to say something like "Gee, its really lousy, but it sounds like the school staff are rigid and have ego problems so if you want to keep your kid in this school, rather than confront the principal and teacher head on you are going to have to suck up to them big time."

abba's rantings said...


"you lash out"

who lashed out at you?
(although i admit after you later comment i'm tempted to lash out)

E.P. said...

I also said in an earlier post that it's wise to go to public school to get the special ed your child needs. These are two different issues to my mind: inability to read and acting up in school. What is the problem with taking your child out of the yeshiva and sending him to public school so he can get specialized help? Rather than hit your head against the closed door of the administration's mindset, use your own judgment and transfer the child. I don't understand the problem here. You don't remain in an unresponsive environment. Do whatever is necessary to get your child the help he needs to read at level. I think we agree more than disagree.

I do believe that treating your child's teacher with respect is a 1950's idea that has been much discredited today, because of the beliefs of modern parents that they and their child are of great importance. In my day (ha, hoary phrase), the teachers were always right. The children were wrong. If there was a complaint against a child, the parents supported the teacher.

That doesn't mean you have to keep your child in a school where he is not succeeding. But as long as your child is in that school, pretend (and it is a pretence) that you respect the school, the principal and the teachers. This teaches your child an attitude of respect and he may grow up with an attitude of "it's not all about me". Most people believe the opposite, it is all about me, and they suffer in the jobmarket because of it. Employers want employees who are not self absorbed but who can think of someone other than themselves.

I've gone far afield in this post because the implications of inculcating and encouraging disrespect in your child has far-reaching implications for his success in life.

Orthonomics said...


How is your son doing with Hebrew reading? Are there problems there too? If so, are the problems similar?

Anonymous said...

He can read a few words of Hebrew with difficulty although he has been at the school for 3 years. My son's teacher suggested that perhaps he might be "retarded" her word not mine. We have taken out a loan from a friend to pay for the neuropsychologist. The principal will not budge. He admitted that repect might not be the real issue, however, but he agreed with the teacher that his low reading might be related to a "mental defect" and said that maybe he should be retained in second grade. By the way outside of school my son does well with friends and is good at math in school. Thank you for all of the advice and support.
Father of an ADHD kid

Abba's Rantings said...

Father of an ADHD kid:

"The principal will not budge."

Please, please, please consider an educational alternative. Unless there are other details you're not disclosing, this principal does not have your child's best interests at heart.

And if the teacher was unable to cope with the "mental defect" this year, why are you optimistic about next year after your son is even more frustrated at having been left back?

Anonymous said...

My wife and I are going to meet with our Rabbi. We were not open to public school before, because we wanted our son to have a Jewish education and be able to read and speak Hebrew. We now feel that there are no other options available. Our son cried when the principal called him in for his own "special meeting" because he thinks that his friends will tease him if he repeats second grade. We are exploring other options and don't really care now what our friends might think.
Aba of an ADHD kid

Orthonomics said...

Hatzlacha Rabba. I'm sure this will be a challenging time, but I truly believe that your son will see success with the right help and the right attitude.

(Unsolicited and hopefully kind advice) I think you are best off testing initially with the public schools and then, if you believe it is necessary, testing with a private neuropsychologist. I have a fairly good idea of the tremendous challenges of paying steep medical costs and I think you might be wise holding onto the loan from a kind friend while waiting for the initial report.

Anonymous said...

Not to be unkind, but maybe your kid might just be a little slow and not the genius you and your wife think he is. Nothing wrong with that. I really think that a lot of this ADD stuff might be a way to excuse bad parenting and to blame school's for a less that perfect outcome for your child.

Orthonomics said...

Anonymous above,

I happen to think that there are too many parents and educators that do use issues to excuse other issues and this is not right.

But from the father's description, there is a principal who is putting up barriers. I'm currently dealing with an academic issue and I feel like a partner with the staff as we brainstorm together. I have a friend with children in a more right wing school and it was the principal and staff who made sure that their children were enrolled during the summer in a public school program to help them with their issues.

As for behavior, I believe that behavior could very well be a complicating issue. But, there are plenty of behavior problems in day schools/yeshiva schools and yet I don't know too many mid-second graders that can't read. (I'm interpretting that as not engaged in at least the initial stages of decoding).

I'm a Jewish parent too, so I understand that sometimes we overestimate our child's abilities. But it seems to me you have a principal who is putting up barriers and making promises for next year, and a teacher that suggesting the kid might be "retarded". That doesn't sound like a great combo.

Anonymous said...

I teach at a Yeshiva in Detroit and am sick and tired of parents making excusses for their kids. ADD is totally made up in my mind and is often the result of poor parenting. Most of my students are also not nearly as smart as their parents think they are. Parents feel free to complain about low reading scores during conferences when in reality their kids just can't handle the material. I bet that if the father of the ADHD kid is tested by a real professional, he will find that his kid is slow and this might help him accept reality when it comes to his son's skills or lack thereof. I actually am a suppotive teacher but feel the need to tell it like it is.

E.P. said...

Did you ever think that instead of looking for a diagnosis and blaming the school, you might work with your child every evening on reading? This is what responsible parents who have children who are slow at reading do, and slowly they gain success and their child can read. This was a situation I knew of in the third or fourth grade. The boy's cousin also couldn't read in the third or fourth grade, but rather than work with him on a nightly basis, the mother was busy with other things. Finally in sixth grade or so the family hired a reading teacher for the boy. Neither boy's family blamed the school. Neither boy's family sought a diagnosis that would let their son or themselves off the hook. Sorry you are having trouble with your child's reading - but are you working with him every night? Are you putting in the tedious time necessary to help him? Or are you taking on the much more satisfying tack of attacking the principal to distract yourself from the possibly disturbing reality that there is something YOU can do about the situation. No one wants to face the responsibility of taking charge of a problem themselves, certainly not our self indulgent, self absorbed parents. Psychology has given the self absorbed the cushion of diagnosis and pills instead of the reality that they should be working with their child every night or hire someone who will tutor the child. Okay, now attack me for my lack of compassion! I can take it, I welcome it!