As both a yeshiva school parent [and] yeshiva school teacher, and a municipal taxpayer, I find the articles on the tuition crisis too narrow a scope. The confluence of issues that impact the variety of costs for a modern yeshiva that wants to provide a quality education must address so many factors. The inroads made by private educational experts; the desire to keep up with the latest technology in order to compete with other yeshivas to attract students; the need for support staff to address the psychological, mental and emotional needs of many students; the increased staffing in general; and the obligatory expenses of parents who must pay for public schools as well as the yeshiva make tuition costs a daunting challenge. And, of course, the need to pay teachers a living wage.
Taken separately any one of the issues could intimidate a bookkeeper.
Today, there is no end to the desire of the private sector in their pursuit of a role in a modern yeshiva. Higher test scores, better-prepared teachers, better-adjusted students and a whole host of promises to improve the learning in a given school are the guaranteed ends. These offerings are not only being proffered to freshly minted teachers but to professional teachers with many years of education and teaching experience. These private-sector offerings are not done without a price. And it is quite possible that what is being offered may be beneficial to some teachers.
Chromebooks, smart boards, technical staff etc. have become the lexicon of the modern yeshiva. Schools have to keep up with other schools in order to attract new students. And the cost for these new “necessary” gadgets rises every year. Portals, instantaneous communication with parents, a posting of grades to every parent and student are now a part of many of the modern yeshivas.
The advances of psychological, emotional, and educational testing have increased the need for further staffing. The pressure of many Jewish parents to make sure their children score well on standardized testing in order to compete in the academic world of the future is all factored into the needs and expenses of a modern yeshiva.
The fact that Orthodox Jewish parents must not only pay to educate their children in a yeshiva but are also expected to pay for children in a public school is a double expense. Saving the taxpayers the expense of educating an Orthodox Jewish child in a public school is not considered in filing a tax return.
Of course, then there is the Orthodox Jewish teacher who pays taxes, pays tuition for their children and is expected to live on a yeshiva school salary.
It is important to note that the rising tuition costs are not the results of an overall rise in teachers’ salaries. Teachers can go for many years without any raise in pay. As a matter of fact teachers’ salaries can go down with any rise in inflation or the cost of tuition for their children. Teachers are the most important element in the process of educating students, but they are generally the last to benefit from rising tuitions.
Now, how do public schools handle the rising costs of educating students? They simply raise taxes. Those new tax rates generally include paying for “the frills” and a yearly rise in salary for teachers. I know. My eight children went to yeshiva. I taught in public school for 46 years and in yeshiva for 50+ years. And, no, I am not 100 years old.
Joel M. Glazer