Friday, July 30, 2010

Tuition Wrap up

What follows are some of the points made on the school administrator's post, that must be re-emphasized.

(1) Schools take money for services, yet claim they aren't businesses. This strikes me as just an excuse to continue doing things wrong. We're not a business, goes the argument, so how can you expect us to create sound budgets, pay people on time, or rigorously enforce tuition contracts with deadbeat parents? It offends the egos of school administrators to hear this, but you're a business just like the landscaper or the pizza shop, and too often this ego is an obstacle to sound business practices. You have to run your schools professionaly, and "we're not a business" is no excuse. 

(2) Schools run roughshod over parents instead of treating them like customers. Examples of this include, (a) absurd vacation schedule, like closing on isru chag and the week before Pesach. This creates extra expenses and major inconvenience for parents. We manage to make Pesach without taking off for a week in advance. So can you, and your teachers. (b) Creating policies that satisfy the loudest and craziest parents, and not parent body in general (c) Creating policies without consulting the parents, or making any real effort to find out our needs, desires and preferences.   If you want our money, make us feel like you're listening to us and like you understand our situation

(3) Not paying teachers on time is a terrible thing and there is no excuse for it and not just because violating this halacha destroys your credibility. (Who they hell are you to tell us how our kids, and even our wives, are required to dress, if you're going to give yourself a free pass on this biblical rule? Do you serve ham in the cafeteria just because its easier?) If you can't find a way to pay your teachers on time, you don't deserve to exist. That's the litmus test. Plain and simple Create real budgets and do an adequate job at the hard work of fundraising and collections, or close your doors and vanish into the night. There are too many schools, as it is. If you're redundant and poorly managed, you're not doing anyone any favors by sticking around via violations of halacha. Just disappear.  

(4) If you're a wimp at collections, you are screwing the parents who pay on time. Every business in the world has collection problems, and you are not unique nor deserving of sympathy. You have to be firm and responsible about chasing down the deadbeats. That's part of your job and, sorry, but this means lawyers and collection agencies, and even lawsuits. It also means tossing out parents who stiff you. To do otherwise, is to abdicate your responsibility to the parents who meet their obligations.

(5) Stop thinking of scholarships as charity. That's not what they are. A school is in the business (yes business) of providing students with an "educational experience." Giving certain students a discount on tuition to ensure their attendance is a way to improve the "educational experience". Depending on your school, you may need smarter students, or nicer students, or students who are better athletes. Its okay to pay to acquire those types of students in the form of tuition breaks. Its also okay to give breaks to parents who provide services to the school. No-talent parents of undistinguished children who can't afford your school should be directed to a bank or a gmach or to a mosad that specializes in helping destitute parents cover tuition. We don't ask the grocer to subsidize poor people, do we? Instead we refer poor people to Masbiah, or Tomchei Shabbos, or any of a dozen other charities. The same sort of thing should exist for education. The schools should not be in the business of handing out charity. (Additionally, a mossad dedicated to the proposition that every Jewish child deserves a yeshiva education is much "sexier" than a mismanaged school that doesn't pay people on time, coddles pedophiles, and never paints the walls or paves the driveway.)

(6)  Parents are entitled to take vacations, drive nice cars, and send their kids to camp. We're not required to pay the schools full tuition before we can do anything else. We're allowed to negotiate with the schools, the same way we negotiate for houses, and cars, and any other big ticket item. Once an agreement is reached, we're required to meet it, and on time. But the idea that we're not entitled to any kind of discount before we downsize the car or cancel camp is wrong. Maybe. Mister Administrator, you shouldn't get your salary until you've done the same? Sacrificing for Torah should apply to you, too.

(7) Jewish schools are not nearly as excellent as they think they are. Some clues: (a)  Excellent educators don't need to work in crummy yeshivot that don't pay on time, and that offer no career development (b) Excellent schools don't employ the pedagogical methods of the shtetl. (c) Excellent schools have labs, and enrichment and trips and top tier facilities (d) Excellent schools are run by people who have either attended excellent schools, or go to conferences where they can exchange ideas with the managers of excellent schools (e) excellent schools are accredited. (f) excellent schools employ professional managers who know how to create real budgets, raise money, and make collections. (9) excellent schools have a host of prestigious alumni If your school does/has none of these things -news flash!- its not excellent.

(8) Parents who can't afford yeshiva should take responsibility for their situation.  If you can't afford a Lexus, you get a Honda. If you can't even afford that you take the bus, right? Yeshiva should be the same. Here are your choices (1) Successfully negotiate for a discount with the school, and I mean a discount you can afford to pay on time! (2) Find a cheaper school. (3) Choose public school. As a community, we need to wrap our heads around the idea that public school is a real option. Sending your kids to public school is not the end of the world. S/he can still grow up frum. 

(9)  Your tuition has no basis in reality. How do you realistically expect parents to pay $10K/kid in a world where the average income is less than 100K? Does every school administrator live in a fantasy land? Setting budgets, and hiring teachers with the expectation that people have that kind of money is a recipe for disaster. If your budget depends on collecting those tuitions, your budget is a joke!

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