Op-Ed: Paid Tuition? Yet Even Still………

by Rabbi Hami, Rosh Yeshiva, Mesivta Lev Tmimim, Lubavitch

Dear Parents,

Please think about this question.

When there is a shortfall of funds – delays in tuition being paid, insufficient fundraising amounts, or unforeseen costs – how does the average person think schools remain open each day and provide services to children?

A.  Send children home and cut costs, such as lay off teachers, less programming, cutting corners on supervision, etc.
B.  Don’t pay teachers and/or rent/mortgage and vendors
C.  Administrators charge their own credit cards and take personal loans to cover the gap (in most cases of small schools, loans can not be acquired, and lenders will only give to the individuals and not the school)
D.  Close the school – temporarily or permanently
There is no other option that I am aware of.

For most people the default thinking is to do nothing and SOMEHOW the school will manage. But when looking closer we can see clearly the fallout that children suffer from lack of supervision, lack of proper administering of school programs, insufficiently or completely untrained or unqualified staff, illegal and/or unsafe or dangerous facilities, etc.

By default, when “nothing” is chosen, then in reality a combination of A and B are happening.

Any Yeshiva that remains open when funds are lacking is by definition being forced into one or a combination of these.  There is no other option. Think about all the schools that you know who have struggled, and they are absolutely are experiencing one or more of these.  There is no free option happening.  The funds are coming from somewhere or children are paying by the above dangers and shortcomings.  A car will not run without gas.  Even one driving for a lofty – and even lifesaving – mission, will stop when the tank runs dry.

Often this is happening in the background and most parents aren’t aware, but it most certainly is in EVERY single school that is not meeting its budgetary needs.  There is no other reality.

I am honestly asking in all sincerity which of these you feel is the least disruptive and damaging overall and which should a Mosad choose when forced into this position.

Of course fundraising more would solve the problem – in theory.  But in the case where it has not yet succeeded, which option would you choose?

When making your choice, consider strongly the ramifications of each option.  One ramification that most parents don’t seem to consider is the permissibility of withholding pay from teachers. When a parent can not come up with tuition, and a teacher is denied pay, it is morally wrong and Halachically forbidden Min HaTorah.

This is the predicament that every single Menahel is put into when funds are short.

The administrators of your childrens’ schools are living daily with the anguish, pain and constant concern of how to balance this dilemma, and sadly, any choice they end up with, will hurt someone and they will be blamed for it.

The sad truth is that had they chosen a different field of work where they were providing education for NOBODY, then there would be no blame.

But now that they chose to serve the public, and are doing the best that they can to provide for as many as they can, then somehow they become at fault. This kind of mindset and culture is not only immoral, but is destructive to our entire Chinuch system.

If we want to attract talented and qualified leaders into this filed to serve our children and communities, then we must-

A. realize that these people are the few that actually ARE working to rectify the Chinuch crisis, and-

B. they are doing it with very limited resources, and the problems that Mosdos are experiencing are not (necessarily) a result of poor management or insensitivity to the needs of the children and families, and are often the best they can do with what they have.

Generally, Mechanchim in these positions are not looking for honor, credit or praise. However, criticism, blame and attack on those few who are struggling through this (and in almost all cases choosing, at least partially, option C above, meaning putting their own families in danger and financial hardship for other people’s children) will only drain their ability to run the schools even more, and in some cases also drive away these individuals from serving our communities.

The fact that many parents aren’t fully cognizant of is that there is NO obligation of Chinuch on the administrators and even teachers of the children. The obligation is 100% that of the parents Min HaTorah. It is only that by paying the schools, they are making the teachers Shluchim to carry out THEIR obligation – as in the famous story of the Alter Rebbe with his son’s Chinuch (Hayom Yom, 8 Adar I). In other words, it is NOT the obligation of the mechanchim or administrators to raise the funds to educate someone ELSE’S child. This is a completely mistaken and distorted belief that has infiltrated the community psyche and has come to be a cause for criticism of those involved in Chinuch when they don’t manage to raise enough funds or can not provide services to all of the children who want to attend a school.

It is incumbent upon us all to realize and deeply internalize this. We must remember that these are people who are selflessly dedicating their lives to OUR children, and truthfully owe us NOTHING. Even when we feel that we are paying our dues in the form of tuition and fundraising, we must remember that this is for US and OUR children. It is not for THEM. We are simply working hard to give them the resources they need to serve OUR children. We are not helping THE SCHOOL or the administration or doing anyone any favors.

Furthermore, we must realize that even when paying FULL tuition, this is not the true cost to educate the child, and the school and its administration has taken upon itself to fundraise the difference. So when parents are not meeting their tuition obligation, they are putting an ADDITIONAL load on the administration that often leads to collapse, or as we see clearly, very poorly run schools, unqualified staff, or even dangerous and unsafe conditions, for lack of sufficient resources.

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