Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Tuition Tax Credits Petition Letter
Please tell me my eyes are playing tricks on me

The Congregation Ahavas Yisroel of Kew Garden Hills blog has posted a letter from Rabbi Eli Mansour of Brooklyn which is asking members of the New York communities to sign a petition to be submitted to Govenor Pataki in support of tax credits.

I have demonstrated my support for these tax credits (which we will be unable to benefit from as we do not live in New York) here, here, here, and here. I am still in support of the tax credits because I believe families with children should be given a helping hand in the form of lower taxes so they can make appropriate educational and extra-curricular choices while raising their children.

However, now I am extremely shocked and upset! In this letter, the Rabbi states:

  • Needless to say, private school tuition costs are one of, if not the largest monetary burden facing our families. If this bill, which is coming before the New York State Legislature next month, were to pass, - the strain on many of our community's organizations, including; the Sephardic Bikur Holim, the Sephardic Angel Fund, the Sephardic Food Fund, and even Sephardic SAFE, will be greatly reduced. Even our Yeshiva's will be less pressured, as the need to provide student scholarships and discounted tuition costs will be sharply reduced.

While I am absolutely thrilled to see so many members of the Modern Orthodox and the Sephardic Communities get involved in a tangible way to try to bring this bill to fruition, I am absolutely enraged that a Rav would PUBLICALLY admit tuition is going to go up for those who are struggling the most! Discounted tuition costs will be sharply reduced?!?!?!

The $500 tax credit is only for families making $75,000 or less (see my discussion about how tax credits are generally determined here). My sources tell me the tax credit is available in lesser amounts for families making $90,000 of less.

Now don't get me wrong. I believe that Yeshivot and Day Schools can use more money too. And, I am happy to know that some of our community funds that go to help people meet their food and utility bills will be less burdened. But, those who are fighting for this tax credit are fighting for the members of our communities that could use $500 in their pockets. The last thing that they want to see is the tax credit wipping out assistance that is so needed.

I don't know what to conclude. I think that New Yorkers should sign the petition. But, I also think that community members need to make it crystal clear to administrators everywhere that they will not tolerate a rise in tuition on the backs of those who are suffering the most!

We are talking about $500 dear friends. Please let those who qualify for the credit be able to buy something they need for their children like extra tutoring. Don't take that money away and leave them in the same position they started in. Please let don't raise tuition and drive more students away from our schools.


orthomom said...

SL, I couldn't agree with you more. While the letter, with its obvious support for the proposal, was a good sign, Rabbi Mansour (or whoever advised him), is playing right into the hands of the proposal's opponents. This is NOT about money for private schools. This is about money for struggling parents.

Orthonomics said...

Not only is he playing into the hands of the opponents, but he or his advisors are creating an re-enforcing an atmosphere of distrust against Yeshivot.

Anonymous said...

I attended a private (secular) high school in CA at the time when school vouchers were first being put to vote. The principal announced that if the measure passed, the tuition would be raised by the amount of the vouchers. I have never doubted that frum schools would do the same thing, which is why I think people need to be cautious about supporting these types of measures. (Note that I am not familiar witht he details of the NY issue being discussed here so I am not criticizing it, just suggesting that there are often unintended consequences.)

Orthonomics said...

Welcome Esther. I hope you will stick around.

I can understand if a secular private school decides to raise tuition although I view it as a bit sad. Certain types of private schools are not met to attract an entire cross-section of population, but only a certain segment, like the "upper-crust." If some people don't want their children to go to school with poor students, that is their choice although I personally prefer my children are exposed to various socio-economic groups during their schooling.

But, as you know, in the Orthodox world Day School and Yeshiva attendance is practically mandatory. There is very little choice and therefore everyone from the poor to the very wealthy has to figure out how to fund a full scale Jewish education for their children K-12.

I imagine that I should not be so surprised, but I am absolutely disgusted and outraged by this letter. The more I think about the letter the more outraged I am becoming. The letter essentially tells parents publically that the schools have no interest in making Jewish education affordable, so tough luck. The message being sent loud and clear is that we don't want you; the observant community has no room for the middle class and the poor.

All New Yorkers should be on the phone with their local Orthodox Rabbi making it known, loud and clear, that it is completely improper to threaten raising tuition, which is exactly what is happening.

Letters like this just mean that any further government assistance that will be proposed that could greatly benefit Jewish parents and Jewish schools will receive little to no support from the community because no one will benefit except the schools. Letters like this just reinforce the underlying feeling that too many have regarding the fiscal integrity and lack of transperancy of our schools. And while I want to see our schools less strapped financially, to do so on the backs of the most needy is disgusting and unnecessary. It will only serve to drive people away, which as I will demonstrate in a future series how financially devestating that can be from an economic perspective.

Anonymous said...

. Even our Yeshiva's will be less pressured, as the need to provide student scholarships and discounted tuition costs will be sharply reduced.
This idea ignores basic economics in a market economy, which Yeshiva;s are.Part of the reason Yeshiva's give scholarships is competetive-many people will go to the cheaper school, and this is presumably particularly the case with people making less than $75,000, the peopl this bill is intended for. Thus if this passes, some schools will try to give less scholarships and other schools will give the same amount. The ones that give the same amount will end up doing better, forcing everyone to either give more or charge less. Its the same thing if real Tuition Tax Credits or vouchers are passed-the schools that try to take the money in the form of lower scholarships will end up losing money.

Anonymous said...

There is no question the Yeshivas will find a way to make money on this!!!