Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Tuition pain = Tuition payin'

A GUEST POST BY JENNIFER IN MAMALAND

This is easily my hardest job as a parent, and it comes once a year. Tonight will mark the ELEVENTH year in a row that I have had to beg my kids' schools to let us not pay the $10,000-plus tuition bills in their entirety.

It is aggravating. It is humiliating. It is worse than impending dental work for looming over my head and making me fear the pain that is to come.

Read the rest of Jennifer's poste after the jump
(Which is why, I guess, the forms say to have them in by May whatever. and here it is, late July.)
I'm not even disorganized. I have all the paperwork here: tax returns, mortgage documents, pay stubs. I have a photocopier. I just HATE hate HATE to put it all together at once and BEG.

"Here I am, see me? On my knees. Pleeeeeeeease?"

My father asked once, "what if you just can't afford to pay anything?" Ha.

I did threaten one school, one year, with sending my kids to public school. But honestly? They know you'll cough up something. Or your parents will, or some well-off relative.

When Irish Catholics arrived in North America, they immediately created a vast system of excellent, affordable parish schools. Here in Ontario, the government will even foot the bill for your religious education - if you happen to be Catholic.

Jews? Well, we build shuls and mikvaot, which are nice; cemeteries, which are essential. Death can't wait the way our kids can.

But my grandparents' generation, born and raised here, who had money and security, were intensely focused on getting their kids into the elite schools, the prep schools, the goyishe schools: Havergal College, Upper Canada College. My mother went to Anglican mass because that was how nice Jewish girls got ahead.
The schools that did get built were and continue to be, haunted by a legacy of mediocrity. Haunted by the initial infusion of cash that never came because we were too busy pushing our way into the elite. (Is it to his eternal credit or damnation that my grandfather, who sent his own kids to Upper Canada and Havergal, was a founding member of this city's Board of Jewish Education?)

So here I sit, eleven years into my kids' schooling, filling out the exact same detailed six-page financial disclosure as last year, to submit to that very Board of Jewish Education.

Why does anybody believe submitting this detailed form each and every year keeps folks honest? Why not create a shorter form, in case your humiliating circumstances have not miraculously changed? Like, you haven't won a lottery?

Imagine the checklist:
  • Is your husband is still in the same dead-end job?
  • Is your house is still 70 years old and crumbling - oh, and WAY too small, with two tiny bedrooms, for you and your four children?
  • Is your car is the same cheap one your father bought you before he crumbled?
  • Have your kids stayed put: not been born, turned 18 or won lotteries of their own?
  • Is your annual family getaway four days in your brother-in-law's house near Ottawa?
  • Finally, has the cost of living not gone down but, as always, up, up, UP.?"
If so, then starting this year, we will no longer make the assumption that you are hiding your secret reservoir of funds from us, the standard-bearers of quality Jewish education!

Seriously. On the "short form" of my dreams, parents would simply certify, to the best of our financial and halachic ability, that things haven't really changed. Then, as on the full-length form, we'd write in the magic number we can't really afford to pay but are scared to write anything lower lest our kid be denied.

No such luck so far, I'm afraid. Just a cheery phone call again today to ask for the forms. plus, a reminder of a bounced cheque from last year, which must still be paid. "Aha! This bounced cheque is clear evidence that you are indeed hiding your secret reservoir of funds!"

Yup; try the cash drawers at Superstore. The schools will never get their hands on it there.


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