July 25, 2024
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July 25, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Stop Talking and Do Something!

We as a community are spending too much time kvetching and complaining about the high cost of yeshiva tuition while the means to a solution are within our grasp. I have watched this community grow and flourish from two day schools to 14. Sadly, I am now seeing my community struggling with the rising costs of a day school education when remedies are available.

Schools are not profit centers, but some costs can be contained. The largest salaries go to non-teaching administrative personnel. Schools can get by with fewer administrators. Teachers can perform administrative tasks in addition to their teaching responsibilities. Check the rosters and add up the salaries in almost every day school.

Teaneck is known for its many dining establishments. Englewood, Tenafly and Fair Lawn also have their share. I propose a luxury tax of 1 percent on all meals at all restaurants in our community. It’s a small amount that patrons will not feel. If a family spends $100 on dinner, $1 more is inconsequential. Calculate how many people eat out and do the math. I will leave the method of collection to the accountants and the computer mavens. It will provide a steady stream of funding into a communal Jewish education fund. When Israeli restaurants started charging extra for the guards at the door, no one objected. This, too, should not be an inconvenience. We have the power to make it happen and it can be a model for others to emulate. “Im tirzu.”

Tuition tax credits—not vouchers—for individuals and businesses have generated millions of dollars for day schools (and other private and parochial schools) in a dozen states. Furthermore, the Supreme Court has ruled that it does not constitute a church/state issue. Arizona created the nation’s first tax credit for private education 18 years ago in a move hailed by school-choice advocates and replicated across the country. Its architects have watched it grow far larger than they ever imagined. The program that the Arizona legislative budget staff in 1997 estimated would raise $4.5 million a year now tops $140 million annually. That’s in Arizona! Think of what we could do with that money.

Together with the Archdioceses, the various Jewish communities in New Jersey and their elected representatives have a lot of clout in Trenton. We lobby for passage of a bill allowing up to $500 of our New Jersey tax obligation to go to a school tuition organization. When the bill gets passed, anyone, not just parents, can contribute. This has a cumulative effect, and best of all it doesn’t come out of anyone’s pocket. Put simply, we establish a school tuition organization, the Northern New Jersey Day School Alliance, for the purpose of providing scholarship assistance to area day schools. Other school groups can form other organizations to assist other schools. The lobbying strategy, and tax credit details, mechanics and arguments can be explained elsewhere, but this plan works.

We cannot expect the UJA or others not vested in day school education to help resolve this crisis. The Orthodox and Conservative day school parent bodies have the capacity and wherewithal to pull this off. Stop complaining and organize yourselves. The solutions are available. All that is needed is for parents to start a movement and it will snowball. Every school’s PTA must form a committee and all the schools can work together to achieve the goal of lowering tuition by infusing capital into the day schools. It can be done. Grumbling about the high cost of Jewish education around the Shabbos table accomplishes nothing except diminishing the atmosphere of Shabbos.

The time for talking is over. The time for action is now.

 By Wallace Greene

 

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