Tuesday, September 05, 2006

In-Tuition



The last two issues of the English Mishpacha magazine dedicated a long, two-part article dealing with the tuition crisis. The article was quite well written and encompassed the problem from most angles. Yet it didn’t offer too much that was not previously known, nor suggested seriously viable solutions. I am not sure if there are such solutions, but I do have a few ideas of my own. How effective they would be if implemented I cannot say for sure, yet I believe that from a rational, and maybe honest, perspective they are perhaps more valid than most on the market today.

The voucher program is often touted, yet practically it is almost impossible to implement: the majority of frum schools are in the tri-state area, in other words the nations most leftist, and therefore most anti private school and obviously the most averse to the idea of the voucher program. A law exempting parents of private-school educated children from the school tax (and the school tax only) part of property taxes would make more sense, and more palatable to the Democrats, choice party of most frum communities. However, with all the social services consumed by the frum community in general and the hassidim especially, the Orthodox delegates probably concentrate their energy on turning the attention away from this fraudulent parasitism rather than solve the entire community’s problem –especially for the honest working families who can’t or refuse to pay their rent with food stamps.

Another effective tool would be to establish a PTA –Parents for Transparent Accounting- panel. Personally, I have never seen a dean/owner of an educational institution who doesn’t live in a luxurious home, has no late-model fancy car, who can’t afford tuition and camp for their children, and generally don’t swim in money. Not that there is anything wrong with making money – education, in order to be effective and successful, has to be run like any other profitable business. Unless the most important variable is omitted from the equation: competition. Since the vast majority of educational institutions are tailored to the frum communities’ compartmentation, nearly all parents have only one moisad to which to send their children in their area - at least in the elementary years. That means that parents are being taken for granted by these establishments. Make the criteria for grouping children other than tribal adherence (child’s abilities, personality, school’s educational orientation and ideology) and you’ve got fair competition. But I guess until the prophecy of “v’Gur Zvihl im Litveks” isn’t fulfilled, such competition isn’t on the agenda.

Of course, many have spoken and speculated what would happen if all Orthodox parents in, say, the East Ramapo School district would swarm to register their children in the public school? Quite obviously, the school tax would be eliminated – as above suggested - before the first day of school. But the Rebbes wouldn’t like it: lower housing prices would mean less business in the real-estate industry, and of course lower pidyionos from the building moguls, not to mention the apathy and incapability of proactive exercise of the frum lemmings.

Of course, the mere thought of the powerful Jewish organizations demanding tough border control from the government, rather than one more block of margarine or pardon for some "frum" felon triggers hysterical laughter from the rational thinker. Yet it should trigger tears of fire. The sad fact is that many many taxes are driven higher and higher by the Mexican invaders. It is bad enough that in many places we must subsidize homegrown parsites’ uncontrolled offspring (conceived for the sole reason that Medicaid is easier to obtain than birth control) – we can’t afford to add tens of millions of third-world “immigrants” to the bill. If you’d pay 8 to 20 per cent less on everything you buy, tuition would be less of a pain. And when you realize that L.A. County alone spent $216 Million in 2005 on illegal aliens only for social services (excluding jail, legal and emergency health services) you understand that these numbers aren’t in the least exaggerations.

But if the Agudah, RCA, Satmar et al have easier means of lining their pockets, why would they move a little finger for you? If they can bamboozle you with the meaningless rhetoric reprinted in the papers you’re willing to buy, why bother? Why antagonize their big-business buddies who employ those aliens instead of the mentally weak or dropouts of our own community? Or at least an American citizen who could get off unemploymnent benefits?

And if the frum community would be just a bit more united and less tribally egocentric, we could have a quite strong economic structure of our own. But since Chaim Litvak can’t hire Yankel Belzer and Shimmy Vizhnitz’s daughter is barred from working for Berel Gerrer, what kind of independent economic infrastructure can you expect?

And finally, if you realize that you grew up in a totally different culture, without a degree and formal professional education (in most cases), take a pretty comfortable lifestyle for granted along with private education (which is quite bit of luxury according to all American standards) you don’t have it that bad. Besides, if you were a fairly good student in Yeshiva, you have an extremely powerful tool that no other community in the world possesses: the Gemora. The strong analytic mind and buttocks which it builds is the recipe for the worlds most potent propellant.
Use it.