Monday, November 02, 2009

THE NUMBER and My Irrational (or is it?) Fear...

Eeees and I are now in the process of looking for high schools for our two children (a boy and a girl) who are graduating elementary school this year. That means that next year we will have three high-schoolers at once (including Walter, who is already in high school).

Part of the process that we are going through is attending the open houses that various schools have. We've already pretty much narrowed the prospects down to about two or three schools for each kid. However, as we attend the various open houses and get the information for each school, the thing that strikes the greatest fear into our hearts is the number. You know which number I mean -- THE NUMBER -- the one with a dollar sign in front of it, followed by five digits and then the decimal point. Usually, the first digit is a 1, but sometimes, after transportation and all the other "miscellaneous" extras are added in, that first digit could easily blossom into a 2.

I did a rough, off-the-cuff calculation and figured that, at full tuition, we're looking at about $55-60 thousand dollars next year in tuition. I don't mind telling you that this is *significantly* higher than what we are paying now and there is simply not the room in the budget for it. Short of us winning the lottery, it ain't happening - at least not if we want to keep eating. Perhaps in about two years, after Eeees and I both graduate from grad school such a sum might be possible, but for now? No - it's just too large a sum to include into our budget along with the other required expenses. That being said, we'll be applying for tuition breaks from all three schools (yes, it'll be three different schools).

Have you ever had a fear that was completely irrational -- and yet, you were still afraid? For example, when I was a younger pup, I had a horrible fear of vampires. Eeees and several freinds can vouch for the fact that I didn't do very well when we watched The Lost Boys together many years ago. The fear was completely irrational -- there was a 0% chance of my actually being attacked at any time by a vampire -- but nonetheless, I was terrified.

Well, I have a tuituion fear that is probably irrational, but certainly has a greater chance of happening than being attacked by a vampire. What is that fear? Very simply, the fear is that when we apply for tuition breaks from the schools, they will simply tell us no -- that we should get the other two schools to give us breaks. "Why should we subsidize your sending your other son/daughter to a different school?" is what I'm afraid I'm going to hear. School A will tell me to get a break from B and C -- B will say to ask A and C and C will tell me to go to A & B. In the end, no one reduces their tuition and that's that.

Yeah, I know... in reality they will (hopefully?) take other tuitions into account. But this irrational fear actually sometimes keeps me up at night. Anyone else have any experience in this area? Is my fear truly irrational? Or am I headed for a big heap of financial trouble next year?

The Wolf


Lion of Zion said...

"School A will tell me to get a break from B and C -- B will say to ask A and C and C will tell me to go to A & B."

put them on a conference call and let them work it out

"Is my fear truly irrational?"

nope. i'm told that what you fear is a standard first-line response from schools.

i loved lost boys (although i wonder if its one of those movies i would no longer like now that my tastes are older and more "refined"). when i was a kid i watched an old dracula movie on my grandparents b & w set in a dark panlled room that completely freaked me out and gave me nightmares for a while.


micha berger said...

I got you beat.

My total tuition for the year, before appealing scholarship committees, started with a 1. Now I have it "down" to a number that starts with a 9. One school cut all of $930 out of over $24k. Less than 4% off. I took it, but what was that about? Just to raise the statistics of how many children are on scholarship, so that donors would be more compelled to give?

Now I realize I have an atypically large family, but I sold my soul to Wall St just to pay the bills. Many rabbis and day school teachers have as many children as I do. Can anyone tell me how they pull off the simple expenses of living?

And: anyone know of a third-party scholarship foundation?

-micha (end whine.)

micha berger said...

As for strategy... I got all the numbers, summed them, showed where they fit in my budget, and how I could only pay x% of the total. Two schools admirably did only charge me x%. The other 3, though...

And here's a weird one. The day after they tell me they expect me to pay thousands more than I proved I can afford, they start nagging me for head checks! (Actually, the electronic equivalent.) What? They're assuming I lied and the money is just lying around?

To be fair... The schools have a choice: either they're nasty to us parents, or they don't make payroll. They are stuck in between, and will have to be unfair to someone. We simply don't have the money to support everyone we need to get the job done. Blaming the person stressed out because they're the ones between the rock and a hard place isn't entirely fair. After all, it's not like /I/ volunteered to be on the scholarship committee.


Anonymous said...

Wolf, our communities are being killed across the board and there is no good solution. in Northern Jersey they started NNJ Kids which is a communal fund that will hopefully help in the distant future but for now the community at whole needs to get together an address this poblem. we are going off a cliff and the schools are offering us a broken branch to save ourselves. We need real solutions now.

Ariella's blog said...

Micha, I really do sympathize with your position. It really is unfair that children of "kley kodesh" often are given preferential scholarship treatment even when they already have a tax advantaged situation. Almost all rebbeim claim parsonage, and on top of that the schools they work for usually will arrange to pay tuition directly to other schools where their children are enrolled -- in other words, with pre-tax dollars. Plus many community stores offer 10% discounts -- regardless of income -- to kollelnicks and those in chinuch. For a large family, that proves to be a very substantial savings on grocery bills. And, of course, the mechanchim are off for the summer, which allows them to pick up additional income at camp jobs if they should choose to pursue them. And they never have to use their vacation days for Yomim tovim.
I must point out, though, that women teachers tend to get paid far less than rebbeim and to not get the parsonage advantage.
Don't get me wrong: we need good people in chinuch, and they do deserve professional respect. preferential treatment is It's just that the stereotype automatically grants them perks that people who are working in regular jobs that are no more lucrative do not get.

Lion of Zion said...


"I must point out, though, that women teachers tend to get paid far less than rebbeim"

is this true in the schools that types of schools that cost more than 20k? (wolf says one of his schools will)

Ariella's blog said...

Yes, it is true. My husband -- who used to be in chinuch and employed by such a school -- affirms it. There is a premium paid for semicha, (a much bigger one than what is offered for a Master's or even a PhD) which no Orthodox woman can match. Also, as he points out, in a coed class, you would have a woman only for the lower grades, while the upper grades, which usually offer higher salaries, the teachers would be men.

Anonymous said...

As an experiment, if you can't afford tuition for 3, try enrolling one kid in a public school. You might find that at the end of the high school experience, that one will be far better educated than the ones in yeshivas.

Shmendrik said...

You also might find that they're eating treif and dating a non-Jewish classmate.

Anonymous said...

You do realize that the first portion of any "break" you get is not actually a reduction in your child's tuition fees, but releasing you from subsidizing other students from poorer families.

Orthonomics said...

What is irrational about your fear? Granted my friends were enrolling their oldest for the first time, but the menahel told them straight out that they weren't going to get a scholarship. He has no idea what they earn, the debt load from student loans, the cost of being part of a partnership to make what he makes. But they aren't klei kodesh and he wanted them to know there are no breaks so don't bother.

Zev Stern said...

No your fear is not irrational at all. I've said it before, and I'm not anonymous - hint hint. I give it one generation, if that, before frum parents place their children in public schools because they cannot afford yeshivot. Heck, it's happening already. I subbed just the other day in a special ed class with a frum (black velvet kippa) student with cerebral palsy. He was in a wheelchair, had difficulty speaking and needed a paraprofessional tending him exclusively. No yeshiva could meet his needs, certainly not at a price his parents can afford.
Worse things can happen than having a kid in public schools. I know you live in Brooklyn, and we have some very good ones. Speak Hebrew with him at home, study Tanakh with him, read the Hebrew newspaper together. Team up with other parents in the same predicament. It's not an ideal situation, but it's better than sacrificing your sanity. And perhaps this is God's way of getting us to pick up and go home.

Devorah said...

I bet the vampires are jealous of all the blood you're giving away in the latest post.

SuperRaizy said...

I also have 3 kids in 3 different schools, and none of the schools have ever told me to turn to the others for help, and each one gives me tutition aid (of course, as a single parent I engender more sympathy than married couples do). Nevertheless, I have learned a few lessons:
1)It's a game of chicken: whomever backs down first loses. Go into the process with full confidence that you need and deserve tuition assistance. You're willing to put your wonderful child into their yeshiva, but hey, they have to make it possible for you to do so. Don't apologize, don't beg, don't blink. Figure out how much you actually can pay, then ask for a bit more. This will give them a little bit of wiggle room.
2) If you're not happy with the decision of the tuition committee, ask to appeal it. It will mean more paperwork, but it's worth it.
3)Take advantage of any connections you may have. When my son started high school, a supervisor of mine who used to work at the high school called the executive director and put in a good word for me. It made a big difference.
4)Tell the tuition committee that you or your wife are willing to volunteer in exchange for more tuition help. Stress any skills you have that would be particularly beneficial to the school (website development, etc.)
5) AFTER (not before) your tuition rate is set, ask to pay it out in 12 monthly installments instead of 10.
6) Kiss summer camp goodbye.
7) If all else fails, you and Eees are welcome to join me in the poorhouse.

mlevin said...

Shmedrik - quit fearmongering, public schools do not make kids to "eating treif and dating a non-Jewish classmate." it's the family that does that. Otherwise, how would you explain the high OTD rate.

Zev Stern said...

Until the 1960s it was the norm for Orthodox kids to go to public high school. If they were lucky, they had eight years in yeshiva. Yeshiva high schools were few and unaffordable except for the wealthy. My mother went to public school for twelve years; there no no yeshivot for girls in McKeesport, PA.

Anonymous said...

There are those who made Aliyah because of this conundrum. We also had this issue but somehow we made it. There's always the thought that you can choose a school because of economics.

One would not live in a luxury home on LI if they were working behind the counter in a food store. Sometimes you just can't afford certain things.

Just don't send your kids to schools that will kill them emotionally or spiritually. Otherwise you'd be surprised how flexibly kids can respond to different school situations.

The other thing to remember is that most other people are in situations like yours and the schools are aware of it. How this will be solved is anyone's guess.

Do not send your kids to public school unless it's a Stuyvesant or Bx Sci. and they are especially gifted and will not be happy in a Yeshiva. You can't replace what a good Rebbi can do for a kid. Whoever is suggesting it isn't looking at what public school kids look like and sound like in real life.

Good luck -- somehow we make it through these nightmares but it is a challenge

micha berger said...

We make it through, but our children's loyalty to Torah too often doesn't. All too often because of the inferior quality of what all that money is buying.

That said, if you really thought that education is primarily about books rather than environment and peers, why go to public school when you could get a full education -- pragmatic and spiritual -- with home schooling? And if you lack the skills and/or patience, total tutor fees would still be well below a typical scholarshipped tuition...


Shmendrik said...

Shmedrik - quit fearmongering, public schools do not make kids to "eating treif and dating a non-Jewish classmate." it's the family that does that. Otherwise, how would you explain the high OTD rate.

That's completely illogical. Kids go OTD in yeshiva, ergo having a peer group consisting of non-Jews and non-Orthodox Jews in public school won't affect their behavior? You've lost me. Obviously there are many reasons Orthodox kids may leave the fold (see Harry Maryles' blog for an incomplete list). Going to public school is not a major cause, for the simple reason that not many Orthodox kids go to public school.

Do you seriously think that it's "fear-mongering" to suggest that a 14-year-old's ideas and behavior won't be affected by spending most of their day in an entirely irreligious environment? What normal kid doesn't want to fit in with his peer group, regardless of his family environment?

Incidentally, I don't believe the situation in the 1960's is relevant, because then there were public schools with a large contingent of Orthodox Jews, which is not the case nowadays.

mlevin said...

Shmedrik - if people would send their children to public school then there would be a large contingent of OJ in PS and no reason for people to live in poverty paying for yeshivah which (with exception of a few) are just a glorified babysitting service because they do not provide any secular education and very limited Jewish education.

I know a number of male yeshivah graduates who do know halocha and of course their secular education is on par with project-high-school-drop-outs. The girls schools are a bit better in practical halocha, and secular education but far below the average PS graduate in the country.

PS is not an irreligious enviroment, it's an eviroment that doesn't mention religion at all. Meaning children do not learn anything bad or good about religion from school. Hence all of their religious knowledge comes from home. If parents really believe in Judaism and G-d, they would have no problem conveying that message to their children, if however, parents just go through the motions because they worry about neighbors and how it would effect the shidduchim then...

Shmendrik said...

mlevin: You will notice that the anonymous comment (was it yours?) suggested sending a child to public school as an experiment. Barring massive sudden social change, there will not be a large contingent of OJ's in PS. In many places, this would be true even if OJ's started sending all their kids to public school.

Of course PS is an irreligious environment. First of all, social science and other courses will have plenty of content about religion which is incompatible with the Orthodox Jewish point of view. Much more importantly, the child's peer group will consist of people who engage in behaviors and attitudes which are halachically beyond the pale.

Zev Stern said...

You can't replace what a good Rebbi can do for a kid. Whoever is suggesting it isn't looking at what public school kids look like and sound like in real life.

There are few good rebbeim anymore. Most (except in yeshivot like Flatbush that the average frum couple can't afford) are in thrall to fools living in the Middle Ages, fools whom they believe to be infallible. Whatever Torah I can impart is better than the Gospel According to Gosse. I teach public school and I know what students look and sound like "in real life," not through the prejudiced eye of a fool that never set foot in a public school. They come in all shapes, sizes and colors. Some are terrific, some are good, some are bad and some are terrible, just like any other sector of society including our own. Where did those stinking crooks paraded on national TV last July go to school?

Do you seriously think that it's "fear-mongering" to suggest that a 14-year-old's ideas and behavior won't be affected by spending most of their day in an entirely irreligious environment?

It will be affected. They will learn that Gentiles and non-religious Jews can be good and decent people. They will not discover this after graduating high school and then realize that their rebbeim were lying to them and playing them for stupid for 12 years.

Shmendrik said...

Come on neander, i'm no hareidi, but that's ridiculous. Do you seriously think the only thing a teenage boy will get from hanging out with sexually promiscuous teenagers all day is a sense of appreciation for Gentiles' humanity?

Anonymous said...

"There are those who made Aliyah because of this conundrum."..

Is that a comment a Jew would make? as if they were forced to do such a terrible thing as making aliya???

Don't you mean to say "Wolf, use this issue as a push towards doing the right Jewish thing - Make Aliya - and you'll be able to afford good (i.e. not chareidi) Jewish tuition - and bring them up in the Jewish homeland?"


Zev Stern said...

Here we go again. Not all kids in public school are sexually promiscuous. Some are, and are completely unashamed of it. A frum kid in that environment will have to learn to rein in his sex drive, but he won't be in denial about having one and then have it pull him in strange directions (i.e. boys) because he has zero access to girls. He will need guidance from parents; there will be "Shabbat friends" and "Sunday friends," and so forth.

I am not saying this is an ideal setup. Far from it. But it soon will not be a matter of choice for the typical frum couple with a typical income. When I had school-age children I chose yeshiva over a car (I never owned one) and fancy vacations, and never looked back. But when it becomes a choice between yeshiva and food, a roof over one's head and good health (for you AND your kids), most will choose the latter.
Back to the '60s. Or back home.

mlevin said...

Shmedrick – you don’t need a large contingent of OJs in PS. Just a few is enough to make kids feel like they are not alone.
Science and other courses is not a PS phenomenon they are the requirement of the state to be taught at schools. By not teaching these classes yeshivahs are number one breaking a law and number two shortchanging the kids by limiting their career options. The sciences overall are not in conflict with Judaism, there are a few minor exceptions such as a believe in creation versus spontaneous big bang, and a believe in whether or not people have souls/life after death. These two ideas could be suplemented by good parents at home (if parents choose not to hire a teacher for Jewish studies) and are not exclusive to Yeshivah teaching.
And Shmedrick, I get sick and tired of the attitude that teens in PSs are promiscuous. Yes, there are some, but overall majority are not. Unless of course you do not know the meaning of the word promiscuous. Let me enlighten you then. Promiscuous person is someone who is in a habit of sleeping around, meaning having multiple sexual partners, or bed jumping. Majority of teenagers, and adult Americans, have steady partners and they are having sex exclusively with that one partner. That is not a promiscuous behavior by anyone’s definition. So, if your son chooses to hang around with sexually promiscuous teenagers all day, then it means he went out of his way to be their friend and believe me, he would have done the same thing if he was in Yeshivah. Or do you think there are no promiscuous Jews within OJ society?

Shmendrik said...

Social sciences, not sciences.

Ok, I concede, my son is a fine young man, and would have sex exclusively with one partner in public school. I mean, one partner at a time, because serial monogamy is where it's at.

mlevin said...

And what is the difference between what you call "serial monogamy" and getting married then divorced then married again then divorced again? The last I heard the divorce rate in OJ community is very very high especially the first year of marriage. And many OJs marry in their teens, and are supported by their parent for years after the marriage. The way I see it's no different than the secular community, except for the big party that accompanies "the step" in the OJ community, vs. a party years later after college in the secular community. [for the dense reader by party I mean a wedding reception]. And yes, there are quite many people in secular community who end up marrying the first, and only, person they had intimate relations with.

Shmendrik said...

Sure, there's no difference, there's nothing wrong with it. I think we've both proved my point here.

mlevin said...

What is wrong with a man and a woman living together, building a life, raising children... Are you saying that the whole world needs to follow Jewish tradition and everything else is wrong? Even the Torah doesn't make that claim. Actually, Torah doesn't see anything wrong with hetrosexual monogomous relationships. Torah, actually promotes it.