Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Money still doesn't appear out of thin air, Steve.

On UOJ this comment was left yesterday about some of my earlier articles concerning the tuition crisis in Chereidi schools.

steve said...

Ahavah Gayle once mentioned here that the yeshivos that are behind consistenly 3-4 months in payroll know in the back of their minds that they will never "catch up" and that the teachers should write off the money as a bad debt. This is pure geizel and should not be tolerated. Where is the outrage? Deficits, recession, parents not paying tuition, blah, blah, blah...It's out and out thievery.

10:09 PM, December 09, 2008


I here protest that he is oversimplifying what I have advocated in the past - and still advocate - for frum education.

According to related posts at Orthonomics, some of SephardiLady's readers have posted that they or people they know have not been paid at some schools since last spring - March, one writer said - and others are, as Steve notes, at least a quarter behind. This has been a topic of discussion at Orthonomics several times over the past year or two. The balance of all these past due paychecks runs in the millions of dollars, class - where is that money going to come from to pay them their back pay? It can't come from tuition and donations, because tuition and donations are ALREADY inadequate to cover current expenses - otherwise we wouldn't be having the problem of people not getting paid, now would we? In this credit climate, loans are not going to be forthcoming, either. And finally, most frum families are not in a million years going to send their kids to public school, no matter how poor they get.

That only leaves money falling from the sky, or...

...selling the schools and the related property to settle their debts and replacing the big-box education system with local and regional homeschool cooperatives. Without the expense of buildings and property, "tuition" would be greatly reduced as the only costs would be books/materials, possibly snacks (kids would bring their own lunches), and a small stipend for the "volunteer" teachers - which would include kollel guys, stay-at-home moms, and unmarried girls who have graduated already. The entire administrative layer of costs is also eliminated, because each co-op decides by a volunteer Board or Committee of Parents what textbooks to use and pays for them and the materials and stipends out of one single co-op account. These are not "for profit," either - no padding, no excess, no advertising, no "fund-raising" expenses, just basic expenses and nothing more collected from parents.

Now, even with selling off buildings, land and other large assets, many schools are so far in debt for taxes, materials, ongoing costs and other expenses as well as behind millions of dollars in back pay owed, even selling the property and buildings will most likely not cover everything. This is a simple statement of fact. Wishful thinking will not change the situation. These women will very likely never see a dime of their back pay.

Nor are they in any danger of receiving their currently owed pay. Yes, it's a shame, but how long are they supposed to base their family budget on income that's not coming in? How long are they to be treated like indentured servants instead of paid their wages? For those who can continue to go without the full income - great! They can work or volunteer for a co-op. But for many families, especially those where the woman is the only gainfully employed person, this simply can't go on. They need to find a job that actually pays them. The utility companies, mortgage companies, gas card and grocery stores are not going to let them just not pay their own bills forever - if at all.

So what's your solution, Steve? Pray tell. I would sincerely love to see a proposal that would provide the money to pay these teachers everything they are owed - so where's it going to come from, Steve? Please tell us all, because all of us are suffering from the tuition crisis - it is crippling our communities with debt and poverty. If you have a solution, we need it now.

UPDATE:

steve said...

Ahavah,

You are one of the few that have a clear vision of what's going on in the yeshivah system. The only way to get the teachers paid up to date and to stop this illegal and amoral custom of not making payroll, is for the teachers to go on a wildcat strike. The same way that the bais yaakovs in Lakewood were shut down until all the students were accepted, all yeshivos that are delinquent must be shut down until financing is in place to cover all back pay. A list of deadbeat yeshivos should be made public just like the deadbeat dad lists.

9:45 PM, December 10, 2008


Yes, but a strike won't solve the underlying issue! It stops the dysfunctional current system, but doesn't touch the fact that the schools are operating in the red to begin with vis-a-vis their current expenses, much less any chance of paying off the millions of dollars of back pay owed.

To try and salvage the current big-box system (which I'm not in favor of) someone who could be objective and who is knowledgeable in the area of "forensic accounting" would have to come in and take complete control of the finances, weed out the non-essential spending and skimming, and have final say on how the money that IS coming in will be spent. MAYBE if all the non-essentials are cut out, enough money for meeting the basic minimum needs of the current operations might be there - BUT that will still not solve the back-pay problem.

If anybody has a suggestion, feel free to make it. I don't see the Ravs allowing anyone to come in and stop their private plundering (skimming) and nepotism/cronyism (employing all their unqualified friends and relatives) and excesses (employing far more people than is actually needed to run the school, funding "Extras" that are not necessary for the kid's education, etc). The schools have been, in many cases, their own private slush fund and political leverage - they're not going to give that up without a fight.

The only way to fight is to simply vote with your feet - don't send your kids, don't donate. But the fear of social terrorism in the communities is far too great - they can't break away from the school system because they fear for their kids shidduch chances in the future if they don't play the game. So the Ravs will drain every dime from these poor parents, and their kids will not be "educated" in any manner that will make them responsible adults able to function in the real world or hold market-rate employment, and we all lose. That's the most likely ending to this story and we all know it.

So the teachers who aren't getting paid may as well walk away now, while they still have some small chance of getting a real job somewhere that actually pays them, before the economy collapses any further.

Shalom.

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