Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Add Your Signature

A reader kindly informed me of an internet petition that just went up. I don't know how much good internet petitions will do, but I encourage my readers to add their own digital John Hancock to the letter. So far there are 78 signatures. How many will be up by Friday? Please feel free to pass this link along through community listserves, Facebook, or any other method.

The petition letter follows below:

To: The Jewish Community
We, the undersigned parents, want to provide our children with a quality Jewish education. We send our children to and support our local Jewish Day School. But the rising cost of Day School tuition is creating a real financial strain on many families and is making a Day School education unaffordable. Yet, Day School has proven to be the most effective means of ensuring continuity in the American Jewish community. Although the affordability issue has been simmering below the surface for quite some time, the current financial crisis brings it to the forefront. Previous efforts to address this issue have fallen short and have not provided a viable long-term solution. Too many parents are sacrificing too much, indebting themselves for dozens of years to pay for Day School tuition. It’s not fair to ask grandparents, many of whom already paid for their children’s Day School education, to now pay for their grandchildren too. And, it’s not prudent or reliable to constantly seek the generosity of a few benefactors. We implore the administrators, educators, Rabbis, lay leaders, parents, Federation and all those who have an interest in providing our children with a Jewish education to create a new and sustainable system. Harness this challenging time to focus communal efforts. Be creative. Simple cost-cutting, one-time grants and other band-aids are not permanent solutions. Challenge the status quo, question basic assumptions, consider radical ideas, and hold nothing sacred until we, as a Jewish community, find a new and sustainable model. We want to provide our children with an affordable, sustainable, and excellent Jewish education. Please help us make that happen.
The Undersigned


Yael said...

To whom will this petition be sent? There is no central Jewish educational body that oversees things at every (or even most) Jewish day school in America/Canada. Even Torah u'Mesorah doesn't play this role.

And more importantly, what out of the box changes has anyone come up with that don't have major challenges up against them?

And, no, I don't expect everyone to homeschool. :)

Orthonomics said...

Good comments Yael. I don't have the answers. I'm not sure what great changes a petition can elicit. Money, of course, is louder than words.

rosie said...

I am glad to see that there is a recognition of the role that day schools play in "ensuring continuity in the American Jewish community."
Are the undersigned ready to form co-op schools? Administrators have their own wallets to protect. They are not looking forward to having their jobs eliminated or their salaries cut.
Are those parents willing to make a community day school that would attract the non-Orthodox? That would obviously be more palatable to the Federations.
Whose radical ideas are going to be considered?

Avi said...

Hi, I am the one that wrote the petition and someone alerted me to this blog. So I thought I'd take the opportunity to answer your questions.

This petition was written more to quantify the number of people for whom this topic is of concern. The idea is to take the private conversations and aggregate them. And, if there are enough signatures here, this petition will demonstrate to the leaders of each school and community the need to seriously address this issue.

The petition is not proposing or endorsing any specific ideas other than a long-term, sustainable model.

Challenging times create the necessity and opportunity to implement change.

Every possible option, including the status quo, is not without risk. So we must continue the search for a more sustainable solution.

Anonymous said...

SL, I left a comment at MII about your SAHD comment. I think a post by you on the topic is a fine idea, but I have my own thoughts.

Orthonomics said...

tesyaa-I'm working on a post. I don't see homemaking for Dads becoming a norm because it isn't natural. I do think an increased role should be considered where men get laid off or aren't making it, at least in the short term.

There is a new report out that 80% of all layoffs due to the recession involve male employees. Certainly something that means the model is a changing.

Anon819 said...

Hate to agree that this won't serve much of a purpose, since it really is well-meaning. But:

Administrators & Rabbis - no interets in thinking outside the box. interest is their own institutions (as mentioned above - this is not a bad thing, just natural to watch out for your own parnassa)

Lay leaders - who would that be? Most of the "machers" in a community are strongly associated with a specific school/yeshiva.

Federation - also as mentioned above, if you are only talking about the Orthodox schooling system, there is not going to be the help from the Federation. (By the way, with all the suggestions we've been bringing up on Orthonomics, I have yet to see even one person suggest any cooperation with the Conservative day schools.)

Parents - that's the main issue, but instead of signing a petition, parents need to be willing to take real action. If none of these people would actually be willing to pull their kid out of their current school for any reason, why should the schools care?

JS said...


There is a group on Facebook about this as well. It's called something like "yeshiva tuition is too expensive" or something to that effect.

While I applaud your efforts, the yeshivas and day schools already know there is a problem. The article about Kushner on the previous post indicated at least 33% were receiving tuition assistance. I'm sure that statistic is the same or higher at other schools.

The fact remains that to keep the current model there is only one solution: money. Schools need to raise more of it, families need to earn more of it. On top of that, budgets need to be cut and money needs to be kept in the community. However, this is a long-term plan to a near-term problem. And besides, I don't think it would even work. The facts are that it's expensive to run a school properly.

That leaves you with alternative options which are also already known: public school, charter schools, home schooling, after school programs. There's too much resistance from within for this to be an accepted solution at this point and I think even the proponents acknowledge it's a "b'dieved" solution.

In short, I don't know what the community as a whole can do. I think individual parents need to make the choices for themselves and perhaps a solution will emerge from that. But it's not gonna come from the leadership in my opinion which simply has too much to lose if something else replaces the current system.

Avi said...

(the other "Avi") I'm all for the power of technology to mobilize action, but this just seems like a way for people to kvetch, not to actually accomplish anything.

rosie said...

anon819, the Conservative day schools where I live charge more than the Orthodox ones do. Combining with them would not necessarily bring down the cost of Chinuch. Not only that but many Orthodox run schools have separate gender classrooms or buildings. The genders can be mixed before bar or bat mitzvah, or some allow it until age 9 but this is where chumrahs can get in the way of a community school. Even in the MO b'nei Akiva school, the genders daven separately in high school. A community school would have to offer the Orthodox that option.

conservative scifi said...

On this issue, I think Rosie is right. I have children who go to a conservative (actually community) day school and the price is higher than the local orthodox day school or yeshiva (by a reasonably large amount).

Separate classes (except for gym which is mostly separate at the upper school level) would not happen.

Separate davening is not a problem, with many choices available from reform egalitarian to orthodox with mechitzah.

But unless the schools were each half full, so that combining would save money on space and back office personnel, a combination would not save any money.

I also have a child in public school (for a variety of reasons, not financial). I do wish (and think some conservative and some orthodox parents wish) there was something in between day school and just talmud torah. Maybe a talmud torah that met four or five times a week (fifth on Sunday morning) rather than just twice a week.

While many would find that inadequate, it would still be better than talmud torah (and cheaper than day school).

Anonymous said...

in bergen county, the federation helps all of the orthdox schools infact a couple of years ago, they gave a large grant to maayanot to keep it afloat.

in frisch they have coed davening with a mechitzah, whats so terrible about coed davening.
dont we have that in our shuls now?

Anonymous said...

anon - the federation gave money to yeshivas in bergen county - apparently not enough to prevent bergen county yeshivas from having one of the highest - most unaffordable tuitions in the USA

give me a break - what percentage of bergen county federation money goes to yeshivas ? 5 % - if that - even 20% would not cut it or make a dent in yeshiva tuition costs - and most federation donors are not orthodox and are not interested in helping yeshivas anyway - the chasidim have the only viable midel