By Rabbi Yitzie Ross

QuestionWe’re hoping that as a rebbe, you can answer the following question. Our son’s yeshiva is telling us to sign a document agreeing to pay tuition even if we need to revert back to Zoom. We have two issues with this. Why should we pay full price if we’re not getting the full service? Also, the schools must be saving money when there aren’t children in the building. Why can’t they pass on those savings to us? We could have our kids tutored remotely for a quarter of the cost!

Answer: The two issues you asked about are really one issue. You feel, as do many others, that the yeshivos should not be charging full tuition if we need to start learning remotely. My initial reaction is that this is not really a parenting question. However, since it’s chinuch-related, I’m going to try to answer.

There are many reasons to follow what your yeshiva requested. Before I begin, I would like to make a full disclosure. As a rebbe in a yeshiva, I am obviously biased in this article for a few reasons. First of all, I’m paid by a yeshiva, and, second of all, as a rebbe, I get a tuition discount. Nonetheless, I think the answer below is accurate. While there have many discussions regarding the high cost of tuition in general, this article is focusing solely on the issues regarding paying tuition for remote learning.

I’ve heard from a few people that they felt it was unfair to be paying tuition when their kids were home. To begin, it’s important for everyone to understand that the yeshivos don’t want the kids home. It makes learning much more difficult and causes all sorts of problems. I’ve listed a few of the main problems.

The Logistics. The yeshivos need to make sure that every child has a device or a phone line that can connect. They also need to make sure that every rebbe and teacher cannot only run the class but understands the intricacies of teaching remotely.

The Education. The work that goes on behind the scenes during a typical year is incredible. Every yeshiva has a specific syllabus, and the administration has to make sure it’s being implemented by the rebbeim and teachers. This changes from year to year, and working remotely causes all sorts of complications. It’s much more difficult to grade tests and accurately assess how each child is doing. This doesn’t mean the yeshivos are giving up. On the contrary, there have been many more meetings and discussions than ever before.

The Attitude. At the end of the past school year, there was a general burnout from all kids regarding Zoom. It’s difficult to keep them focused long-term through online learning, and many yeshivos spent a lot of time training the staff on preventive measures. This year, every yeshiva is working overtime to ensure that the kids stay focused even if we need to switch to remote learning.

The Connection. I’m not talking about the internet. These days, rebbeim and teachers are a lot more tuned in to the needs of each child. In the classroom, we’re able to connect on different levels. Some kids need to shine in davening, others on the football field.

The Unknown. Since we’re dealing with situations that are constantly changing, all yeshivos are trying to be as proactive as possible. What would happen if a few children got sick, chas v’shalom? Classrooms are being fitted with cameras and Smartboards at considerable cost.

There are many other reasons I’m not mentioning, but I’m sure you get the idea. However, there are a few other things to keep in mind. I’m not in the loop regarding school finances and the savings regarding remote learning versus in-school. It would seem to be minimal, if at all. I’m sure many of the savings that you mentioned are not realistic. Are the electric bills lower? I’m sure. Does the empty building require cleaning? Probably not as often. These small savings are likely offset by other expenses related to the remote learning. Assuming the school saved even $15,000 (not likely), and there are 500 kids enrolled, you’re looking at a $30 refund per family.

Furthermore, many donors are unable to help as much as they would like to. This obviously puts added stress on the administration and board members who are trying to fundraise. In any case, one of the most expensive parts of running a school is payroll. If parents stopped paying tuition, the teachers would stop getting paid. Although technically that sounds fair, realistically what would happen is that the top teachers and rebbeim would have to look elsewhere for income. Once this virus has run its course it would be difficult to get these teachers and rebbeim back into the classroom. Ultimately, the ones that would be losing out the most would be our children.

All this being said, if any family is having difficulty paying tuition, the schools are being proactive. Even in these difficult and challenging times, most of these wonderful yeshivos are going out of their way to alleviate any fears of the parents. Throughout our communities, our yeshivos are constantly putting our children first. Let’s support them through the end of this pandemic, and straight into the coming of Mashiach, iy’H. 

Rabbi Yitzie Ross is a well-known rebbe and parenting adviser. To sign up for his weekly emails and read the comments, visit YidParenting.com. 

2 COMMENTS

  1. As a just retired public high school science teacher, I can say I never worked so hard as I did when we went to remote learning. We had to learn how to operate many different technologies for remote presentations, tracking and grading and had many workshops and training sessions. The lesson plans are totally different and require a lot more work in finding good material, making certain each lesson is well suited to hold attention and present the material on all levels. Many involved innovation. For example, we made videos to demonstrate what the students would have experienced in the classroom. Since I teach veterinary science, I put together a chicken hatch and recorded every step as we candled eggs, watched the hatch late at night and even did “eggtopsies”. I was up until two or three AM every night and sometimes had students asking questions then. I would help them and then tell them “Go to bed”.

    More time is also involved in grading. No standing up front and stating,”Many of you had this problem with number seven. Let me go over it with all of you.” Instead, each student gets separate feedback which involves a lot more time, difficult when you have 150+ students. The point is, most teachers are working very hard to help your child keep up despite the impositions of the pandemic. Why do you think this is worth less tuition than in normal times?

  2. How about all the PPP and FEMA money the schools got? Why is none of this past onto the parents tuition? On top of this all the schools want more money because of increased expenses!

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