- Hillel: $16,050 to $18,110 8th grade boys with $700 registration fee added in
- Yavneh $16,500 to $17,800 plus $500 graduation fee for 8th grade
- EMEK $15,358 to $15,758 plus $275 graduation fee for 8th grade school. Part of tuition includes a $4000 "membership fee" listed as tax deductible but tells you to check with your accountant (good idea!), we've discussed this before. . . . .
- YULA (website is down, but the Jewish Journal Article on GED'ing saves on tuition written during school year 2008-09 lists tuition as $22,700 for boys and $20,225 for girls)
- Valley Torah $21,050 with early registration
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
The Next Big Idea or a Bunch of Old Ideas Put Together?
Hat Tip: ProfK who brought my attention to something I ignored when it was originally published and asked what her readers think.
On a website "The Next Big Jewish Idea" we are treated to one heck of a big dream (perhaps a bigger dream than government vouchers): COMPLETELY FREE EDUCATION! Incidentally, as strongly as I believe that Jewish day school/yeshiva tuition is out of control, I don't want tuition-free private schooling either. Yes, I think that as a whole we are best served by paying something modest to reasonable that requires some level of sacrifice on the part of the parents. But, back to the subject of the "Big Jewish Idea."
The plan, known as ROILA (Return on Investment Los Angeles), is a plan to reduce and ultimately completely eliminate the cost of tuition for statement of LA Jewish school, K-12. No surprise, what is being proposed here is an endowment fund that will eventually spin off enough to cover the cost of tuition. Before I list the components and phases of the program, let me remind my readers of the cost of tuition at (Orthodox) "pro-Israel Zionistic schools", the only schools that might be included in a program someone is dreaming about:
Phase One, 3-5 Years
All parents with child in Jewish schools must join a synagogues and pay full membership. Then the synagogues would raise membership by 10-15% (synagogue memberships seem to vary between approximately $1000 and $3500, making a 10% raise between $100 and $350). Revenues for increased membership gets put into a super-fund. Mega-donors will match the funds.
The start-up funds raised will 1) fund the project and 2) reduce tuition.
Comments: This tax-on-membership has the possibility of creating new money for schools, but is likely to deprive synagogues of needed donations. If I were sitting on the board of a synagogue, I'm not certain I'd be supportive. I don't know of a shul that survives on dues alone, or even a shul for which dues pay for the majority of the operative budget, and taking money in the form of membership is likely to result in lesser discretionary donations. Raising the price of membership could drive away existing or new members. It is highly likely that the day school families will *not* be able to pay the higher priced membership.
This is the only new idea I'm seeing proposed. Schools that receive funds "must accept certain fiscal oversights in the form of a Controller Czar, operate according to basic business principles, and have professional Board training. In return, the schools would have larger student bodies, subsidies, and money to improve teacher compensation and address infrastructure concerns."
Commentary: I've said numerous times in regards to community wide funds that there needs to be "strings attached." Here the proposal includes attaching some strings, but I don't see much of a call for cutting costs. In fact, there is a call to increase costs (i.e. improve teacher compensation) and staffing is, by far, the largest cost of private education. Perhaps the idea is that larger classes will offset the increased teacher compensation, but to increase class size you either need to 1) shut down schools or 2) attract new students. Regarding the former, I believe the "pro-Israel Zionistic schools" are large enough that no one school can simply be absorbed into another, which leaves attracting new students.
Parents are asked to give, not money, but perform "meaningful community service" as well as "participate in educational classes given by volunteer parents."
Commentary: Both Hillel and Yavneh's tuition schedules (see links above) require parents to volunteer hours annually or pay additional tuition ($1,200 and $500, respectively). I'd love to know what "meaningful community service" the planners have in mind which is presumably above and beyond. It would be innovative to attempt and replace paid staff with volunteer staff. The call above is to increase teacher compensation.
As for participating in educational classes. . . . who has money for babysitting in order to attend classes? At least in the Sephardi House, the babysitting budget is non-existent.
Mega-Donors will have their names publicly honored and posted prominently.
Commentary: We know the names of existing mega-donors. Their names are on the wall!
Phase 2, Bequeaths
"All LA Jews (emphasis mine) would be asked to bequeath 5% of their assets in their will to the school and 5% to the shul of their choice. This 10 percent of their estates for ROILA would fund the Super-Fund and eliminate the burden on the Mega-donors. Community members would be asked to give their children $0.90 on the dollar, with $0.10 going back to the community as their final mitzvah on earth."
Commentary: There is no way you will ever get "all LA Jews" to be part of a single program, especially those who prefer to send their children to schools that are not included in the program. So, it would be silly to base a program on a dream that requires such a high level of participation. What endowment a more reasonable participation rate raise, say 10% participation raise, over the next 25 years?
The planners call this plan a win-win and write "donors rarely view schools as a sound investment as many schools have not spent donor money as intended. Here donors not only have safeguards but become highly incentivized to donate locally to their own community . . . .this system could ultimately serve as a sustainable national model."
Commentary: Uh, the reason donor money isn't spent as intended is normally because there isn't enough money to cover the operating costs! Where is the plan to cover operating costs? Speaking of safeguards, many an endowment fund has been raided. I believe the point the planners are trying to make it that a school can't raid the endowment fund to cover this or that. That alone doesn't "safeguard" the fund. As for sustainability, the only thing I see here that is undeniably sustainable is death.
This is unfortunately just another pipe-dream which combines mostly old ideas put together in new packaging with a great new acronym. We absolutely do need to reduce the "constant pressure on parents" that tuition brings, but "there is no such thing as a free lunch". You can't solve today's problems (and I'd classify $15,000 plus tuitions as a problem) by waiting for a generation to die. I personally do not believe there is a way to make private school education available and affordable for all. Given the recent public school news, I believe that public education is going to need to take a serious haircut to be "sustainable." I do believe we spend too much time dreaming BIG when we'd be better served by piloting small ideas.
If you read the rest of the article you can learn about the community service aspect including entire families. You can learn about housing opportunities and one-stop job boards, problem solving, respecting the environment, and caring for their elders (!). And you will learn that "once the structure is in place the possibilities to positively impact the community are only limited by our imaginations."
Here is my "next big Jewish idea": offer a Free Market Economics 101 class so we can start dreaming and start piloting some real programs that could offer real relief to some people and some schools. There is no such thing as utopia in olam ha-zeh. My new slogan, think small and doable.