Monday, March 15, 2010

As promised,an entire post re Jewish education

Copied from the comments to this post of mine:

Shira Salamone said...
"Secular interests: they work with other professionals, and therefore expect to drive a car that is safe, be able to see a movie, go out to dinner, catch a ball game, and pay their taxes. That, combined with day school, limits family size. If they expected to live in poverty and send their kids to a RW Yeshiva, they'd be fine."

So you think that the Left-Wing Modern Orthodox are doomed because they insist on living like other contemporary human beings?

I hope you're right about charter schools being on solid constitutional grounds. But even if you're right, there simply won't be enough Hebrew-language charter schools to accommodate the thousands of Jewish children in need of at least a Hebrew-language education.
. . .
Miami Al said...
Tuition/Charters:

Correct, LWMO [Left-Wing Modern Orthodox] are doomed if they want to live like normal human being AND give everyone a private school education regardless of willingness to pay. I am sympathetic to someone that is poor because of a situation (health, injury, divorce, etc.) and wants a Jewish education. I'm not sympathetic to someone that chooses a low stress/low paying lifestyle and rents a small place in an upper middle class Jewish suburb and wants free/nearly free education for 5 kids. I've very UNSYMPATHETIC to someone that intentionally over-levers themselves, is house rich and cash poor, leases expensive automobiles, and therefore has no money for Day School... To let people adopt expensive lifestyles that prices out tuition is part of the fall of the system.

The Day Schools, for a variety of asinine reasons, cost approximately twice the Catholic schools. As a result, they are priced like prep schools, not parochial schools, with no interest in changing. The Catholic Church is unable to avoid school closings, Modern Orthodoxy needs to develop a plan that doesn't involve Prep School for all or it is doomed, up to the leadership and laity.

. . .
Shira Salamone said...
. . .
You did not address my point about the inadequate number of student placements available in Hebrew charter schools. I can't see how there could possibly be enough room to accommodate thousands of Jewish kids.

Re tuition, oy. I could write an entire post about Jewish day schools.

"The Day Schools, for a variety of asinine reasons, cost approximately twice the Catholic schools."

One of those "asinine reasons" is that no Jewish day school teachers are bound by oaths of poverty, and none of them save the community money by agreeing to live in dorms (convents, monasteries) all their lives. Jewish educators need their wages to help cover their living expenses.

"As a result, they are priced like prep schools, not parochial schools, with no interest in changing."

"As a result?" No, keep going--you're not there yet.

"Modern Orthodoxy needs to develop a plan that doesn't involve Prep School for all . . . "

Okay, *now* you're there. Jewish day schools are priced like prep schools not only because our community doesn't support "free" teachers (nuns, monks, priests), but also, and especially, because the prep-school aspirations of the day schools are one of their biggest selling points, in my opinion. This may be even more true among the parents of non-Orthodox day school students, who send their kids to day school in order to kill two--no, three--birds with one stone by (a) keeping them out of public (government-funded) schools, widely perceived as educationally-inadequate and (b) keeping them out of what after-school and/or Sunday-school Hebrew schools, also widely perceived as educationally-inadequate, and (c) provide them with a Jewish education in their secular-education location, thereby avoiding the necessity of having someone available to drive them from one school to another.

Did I miss anything? :)

In sum, day schools are currently designed to go far beyond the basics of either secular or Jewish education, providing, essentially, a prep-school education in secular studies and a yeshivah education in Jewish studies. What would you cut, and how, to bring the tuition down to a reasonable level without starving the teachers to death?
. . .
Miami Al said...
Catholic schools, including diocese ones, haven't relied heavily on Vow of Poverty clergy teachers in decades, mostly because there aren't spare priets/nuns in America. If you look at a contemporary Catholic school, the staff are real employees, yet the price differential is there.

Non Orthodox Day Schools are Jewish Prep Schools, there is ZERO market for a non-Orthodox Jewish parochial school in the Catholic model. They view religious school as a luxury, and therefore expect it to perform like the similar luxuries. Remember, an upper middle class non-Orthodox Jew's peer group is upper middle class America (Jew and Gentile), not middle class through upper class Jews like the Modern Orthodox Jew's peer group is.

In the Orthodox World, the insistence on religious instruction in the morning, secular in the afternoon, means that the teachers are all "part time," and therefore paid "less." But since most of them don't have two jobs, they aren't really paid less than they would for full time. As a result, the substandard pay only appeals to someone that wants the tuition break, so more and more people seek employment in the schools.

A family with 4 children and a mother teaching in the school for $40k/year, will get $25k in tuition reductions, and pay the balance of the $35k in tuition in pre-tax "deductions" so take home nothing. To pay $60k in tuition after taxes, that same family would need $100k in income. This is warping the entire Frum economy and forcing everyone into working within the school system... It's much easier to be qualified to be a $40k teacher than a $100k job, and you end up in the same place.

That's the structural economic problem in a nut-shell.

There are many people sending their children to Modern Orthodox Day Schools that if they weren't Orthodox would be utilizing the public school system. The tuition rates result in substantial scholarship, so the "Prep School" push is made for a small percentage of the families that "should" be using a Prep School, and the costs are falling on fewer and fewer.

Basically, outside of NYC, families that would be Ramaz families in NYC instead get on the board at the local Day School and push the school higher, despite being 10% - 15% of the school population. And if you are paying $8k after scholarship whether tuition is $10k, $15k, or $20k, why wouldn't you push for excellence in the school, someone else pays for it. Only a small group of parents are full paying and struggling, and that group shifts from year to year as some make more money and stop struggling and others fall into scholarship land.

Regarding Charters: if the Charter School is performing above metric (and no reason a 70% middle-class Jewish school shouldn't) and over-subscribed, why would there be a limit on the size of the Charters or the number of them? They should potentially be stellar performers pulling the school system up, what's the problem?
Shira Salamone said...
In all seriousness, Miami Al, we're both way off-topic. As I said, "I could write an entire post about Jewish day schools." I think I'll do just that, and copy some of the relevant comments from here to there. See you at the new post.
Here's the new post, as promised.

[New paragraph ¶ ]
Let me start the ball rolling.
[ ¶ ]

"Non Orthodox Day Schools are Jewish Prep Schools, there is ZERO market for a non-Orthodox Jewish parochial school in the Catholic model."

[ ¶ ]
True, but aren't some of the Modern Orthodox day schools, such as Ramaz, also Jewish prep schools?
[ ¶ ]
And Hebrew charter schools aren't going to spring up overnight, so what do we do in the meantime?


[ ¶ ]
Please join this discussion of how to reduce the cost of Jewish education.

11 Comments:

Anonymous Miami Al said...

Ramaz is a Jewish Prep School. Ramaz has an endowment, is oversubscribed, and doing fine, because it has successful alumni that give back. The rest of the modern Orthodox Day School world is NOT Ramaz.

Mon Mar 15, 09:32:00 PM 2010  
Anonymous Too Old to Jewschool Steve said...

With respect to Ramaz, to which several of my friends send their children, this statement is grossly inaccurate. Not the "prep school" part, that's true. And graduates of Ramaz have an excellent education, both jewish and secular. I saw it in the kids I went to college with 30 years ago, and I see it now.

But Ramaz is hardly the bastion of financial independence you perceive it to be. Its endowment was almost completely wiped out courtesy of Bernie Madoff. Tuition keeps increasing and as a result, the student population becomes even narrower than it presently is.

I think the terminology needs to be a bit refined for this discussion. Day schools are the equivalent of prep schools, at least in the Northeast. They are intended to be so, regardless of whether they are Orthodox, Conservative or non-denom. These should be distinguished from yeshivot, more akin to the schools described by Miami Al, whose focus is almost exclusively religious, with a minimum of secular education thrown in.

And not every parent of a day school student is sending them there to avoid public school. As a parent with one foot (or child) in each system, I can tell you that my public school system is providing one child with as good, if not better, a secular education than the school for which tuition is more than I made in my first job out of law school (at a law firm!). And this is not unique to me; I would say a substantial amount of my Schechter's student body would get as good a secular education in their respective public schools.

Tue Mar 16, 10:24:00 AM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Miami Al, I've seen the ads in the Jewish papers, listing the colleges to which their graduates were admitted.

So I'm inclined to agree with TOTJ Steve, that, in the Northeast, at least, day schools of any or no denomination are Jewish prep schools.

I'm very unhappy to hear that Ramaz's endowment was lost in the Madoff financial fraud. Why should school children have to pay the price of a criminal's greed?

As to whether parents send kids to Jewish day school to keep them out of the public schools, I think that may depend at least partially on the quality of the public schools in the area in which they live. Those parents who don't trust the local public schools and would put their kid(s) into private school in any case, and who are also interested in giving their kid(s) a Jewish education, may very well choose a Jewish day school, killing two birds with one stone. If both parents are employed outside the home, this also eliminates the need to have someone at home to drive the kid(s) to a separate Hebrew School.

Another factor may be the quality of the Jewish education available outside of a day school. If the public schools are good, and one is fortunate enough to live within commuting distance of a part-time Jewish educational institution offering a high-quality Jewish education (for example Prozdor), a family committed to giving their kid(s) a good Jewish education might feel that day school is not the only good choice. But those living in areas where the part-time Jewish educational options are of insufficient quality may feel that a Jewish day school is the only acceptable choice.

Tue Mar 16, 01:27:00 PM 2010  
Anonymous Miami Al said...

I went to Prep School. I know people that went to Prep School in the Northeast. I've seen the college admissions. The Day Schools are NOT prep schools. The Yeshivot are disasters on the secular side, but the Day Schools are weaker than you would expect given the resources invested in them, with the exception of a handful of top notch performers.

Ramaz was financially devastated by Bernie Madoff, they will have to recover. Lots of foolish actions left groups in the lurch. Ramaz's problem was being swindled by a con-man, to pretend that that is comparable to the chronic mismanagement elsewhere is disingenuous.

Wed Mar 17, 01:04:00 AM 2010  
Anonymous jdub said...

I don't know where you get that the Day Schools are weak on secular subjects. Our kids' day school in Maryland is very strong. We have a fantastic arts program, offer a foreign language elective in addition to Hebrew (for several years it was Arabic) and routinely compete in secular academic competitions in math etc. Most day schools I know offer calculus, any number of AP classes etc.

Wed Mar 17, 11:39:00 AM 2010  
Anonymous Miami Al said...

This is where definitions matter, offering Calculus is nice, and APs, and larger schools can offer more. However, that's not what makes it a "Prep" school to me. Offering Calculus is one thing, excelling at calculus is another.

My high school offered three levels of Calculus, AB, BC, and Multivariable, the latter of which had no AP test but you could try to test out at college. Sophomores could take Calculus if they were extremely advanced, others took BC as Juniors, and others doubled up Senior year. Our AP Average for Calculus was a 4.2. Our AP Chem Average was 4.5, our AP Bio was 4.7. A Prep School that is preparing kids to go to super competitive schools loads them up on APs junior year AND gets 4/5s, which not only gets college credit, it helps with admissions.

My prep school, despite graduating classes < 200 (verse public schools graduating 750+) offered 30 AP courses, the public schools generally offered a few more.

The difference was that the public schools had an AP Average of 2.7-2.9, ours were consistently 4.2+. I took around 11 AP level courses and got all 5, because we were extremely well prepared.

Offering Calculus is easy, offering calculus at a level where you can average score of 4+ is another level.

Offering Juniors and a few super-advanced Sophomores AP classes is a BIG difference between offering a few of them to seniors.

Some of that is size, some of that is a culture of mediocrity. The Day Schools simply don't compare themselves to Prep Schools in 2010, they compare themselves to mediocre public schools, while charging Prep School prices.

The local Day Schools don't publish their AP averages, but my understanding is that they are around 3, some higher, some lower, not the 4+ I'd expect from a $15k/year school.

And to play a slightly bigoted Jewish issue, the Jewish kids in the Prep school were mostly top performers... well above the class average. An all Jewish private school should be able to compete with Prep Schools and the top Independent Catholic Schools. Maybe some do, the ones down here do not.

Offering less secular time is one thing, making inferior use of the secular time is another.

Wed Mar 17, 12:03:00 PM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

I'm not ignoring you, I'm just zipping out to do some Pesach shopping. :)

To be continued.

Wed Mar 17, 07:03:00 PM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

JDbub and Miami Al, this is where the quality of the local public schools comes in: If the public schools leave something to be desired, any private school, religious or not, may look like a prep school by comparison.

But nu, this post was supposed to be a "discussion of how to reduce the cost of Jewish education." Any suggestions on getting down to the budgetary brass tacks/tachlis?

Thu Mar 18, 01:30:00 PM 2010  
Anonymous Miami Al said...

Shira, there is no realistic solution to costs. There are changes that could be taken that would help fix the marginal problems, but they would require restructuring too much of the Jewish world.

The cost of education is always going up, religious or secular. The Orthodox population of children is growing, the secular population of children is not. The Orthodox world has more students / worker than the secular world. That is the biggest driver on the cost side... demand is growing faster than supply.

This is magnified by twisted economic incentives... if you effectively tax income at 100%, with exemptions for housing, cars, and summer camp, well don't be shocked that people over spend in those areas.

Look, you could fix all the problems in the system that I've identified, and you'd still have a problem. I'm pretty sure you could reduce tuition by 30%-40% without drastically affecting education, probably within 2-3 years, however, tuition would then revert to rising at 2x inflation, so you might solve the problem for 5 years, but not long term.

The bad value of the Day Schools is a total travesty, but totally expected given the underlying economics.

Thu Mar 18, 09:45:00 PM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Short answer: You're a real pessimist.

You'll have to wait 'til after Shabbos for a longer answer.

Fri Mar 19, 03:45:00 PM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Miami Al, I sent the link to this post to a couple of bloggers who are more financially astute than I and might have a more intelligent response than I could give you. I hope they can spare a minute from their Pesach prep.

Sun Mar 21, 01:53:00 PM 2010  

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