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Thursday, January 19, 2006

School Tax Credit

A new proposal introduced by Governor Pataki in Tuesday's budget gives up to a $500 tax credit to public and private school parents in underperforming school districts across New York State. As proposed, the credit can be used for instructional expenses, such as tutoring, or tuition for private and parochial schools. Even with the feeble protestations of possible unconstitutionality by NY Attorney General and Democratic gubernatorial wanna-be Elliot Spitzer - who seems from his quotes to be commenting on a proposal his staff neglected to brief him on - similar proposals have been upheld in many states such as Illinois, Arizona and Pennsylvania.

As all my readers know, tuition is the most significant public policy issue affecting the Orthodox community these days. The crushing burden of paying private school tuition has spurred other proposals, some reviewed on the pages of this blog. But this refundable tax credit would literally put cash in the pocket of poor, near-poor, and middle class Jewish families, and that is a proposal we should all get behind.

29 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

does Lawrence or woodmere (or wherever you are) qualify as an underperforming school district?

9:51 AM  
Blogger Krum as a bagel said...

I would think most Five Towns residents would not qualify based on the income requirement.

10:01 AM  
Blogger Still Wonderin' said...

As for Brooklyn's yeshivot, i suspect that as soon as/if this is put into effect, tuition across-the-board will magically rise by about...$500.

10:22 AM  
Anonymous DiffAnon said...

I'm with SW'. This doesn't address the problem, because the problem is ever-rising tuition. Putting money back into people's pockets is just a way for the boards and heads of yeshivas to ask for more money. It will degrade the public school system AND not noticably help the Orthodox community.

11:12 AM  
Blogger DovBear said...

Ridiculous. The second more money becomes available schools will raise their tuition, or facter this money into their scholarship packages. Instead of offering prospective students "X" it will be X minus the credit.

I tend to doubt anyone - but the schools - will come out ahead.

11:23 AM  
Blogger MUST Gum Addict said...

I was having this discussion with a friend the other day. I was saying how when I was in yeshiva, we never had the kinds of things our kids have in yeshiva today. Even more so, the Rebbes are really top notch. Because schools are paying their Rebbeim better, my son has a Rebbe that is unlike any Rabbeim that existed when I was his age. And if it means that I have to pay more so that my son doesn't grow up rejecting his yeshiva upbringing (like I do), then I shut up and pay the bills -- it's worth it.

If someone would offer clear evidence that Yeshiva's are raising tuitions and I didn't see a direct benefit to it (like if they were squandering the moneyt) I might agree. But at least in my eyes, that isn't the case.

1:27 PM  
Anonymous charliehall said...

I think that Spitzer has a point. Here is the relevant language from the New York Constitution:

Neither the state nor any subdivision thereof, shall use its property or credit or any public money, or authorize or permit either to be used, directly or indirectly, in aid or maintenance, other than for examination
or inspection, of any school or institution of learning wholly or in part under the control or direction of any religious denomination, or in which any denominational tenet or doctrine is taught, but the legislature
may provide for the transportation of children to and from any school
or institution of learning.

If a tax credit is not an aid or maintenance, I don't know what is.

3:00 PM  
Anonymous charliehall said...

There is another problem in addition to the one DovBear mentioned: Suppose that the constitutional problems are overcome, and that eventually that tax credit gets to a level that actually makes a difference.

At that point the state can decide that since it pays the bills, it can call the tunes. In two provinces of Canada in which religious school systems were government funded, the government got tired of paying the bills and merged them with the secular schools. What would we do then?

Unfortunately, I don't have a better idea.

3:03 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...

Ridiculous. The second more money becomes available schools will raise their tuition, or facter this money into their scholarship packages. Instead of offering prospective students "X" it will be X minus the credit.

I tend to doubt anyone - but the schools - will come out ahead.


You're being ridiculous, DB. First of all, the money is not "becoming more available". Most of the people who will be eligible for this in the Orthodox community are people with large families, who are more that likely already on scholarship or some sort of tuition assistance or reduced tuition. Additionally, the schools aren't "going to come out ahead". I refuse to play into that level of cynicism. If there is more tuition available from the parents who cannot afford it now, that only means the schools will not be as financially strapped as most of them are right now, which means more programming, better facilities, perhaps better paid (more satisfied) educators.

That means, in my estimation, that my kids come out ahead.

4:24 PM  
Blogger DovBear said...

The school are all going to say: "Hey! last week you were able to afford 5000 or 7000 or 10,000 per kid. Now you can afford 5500 or 7500 or 10500 per kid, so pay up!"

4:26 PM  
Blogger DovBear said...

Also C. Hall is spot on as usual. It's a bad idea to let outsiders interfere in our school system.

Better not to be greedy.

4:28 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...

These tax credits are not going directly toward our school system. They are going to parents. They will probably be utilized by more public school parents than private school parents.

5:01 PM  
Anonymous Anon2 said...

BTW, Anon1, this proposal will help students in the 5T as the Hempstead school district is classified as "failing" by the state.

There's going to be a rally on Feb 14 in Albany-we should all be there!

See here for a letter to the community and here for the flyer.

5:11 PM  
Blogger Jack's Shack said...

Tuition costs are significant for all denominations, Orthodox or otherwise.

5:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have to say, I'm with DB (I'm the first anon). Schools will raise tuition.

And what if you send your kid to HAFTR, which raises it's tuition by $500 but live in Syosset which has an excellent school system (well, it did when I graduated in the late '80s from Syosset High, Go Braves!). Then, I'm stuck with the rate hike, but don't get the 500 bucks. Or what if I don't qualify fr the refundable tax credit because I make too much (but not too much for it to hurt to pay tuition).

I don't really have a dog in this fight. I live in Maryland where our crisis isn't quite as acute, but it's getting there. I'd like to see free busing and textbook programs which are clearly constitutional and wouldn't result in the schools jacking up tuition.

JDUB

5:24 PM  
Anonymous charliehall said...

The tax credit is small potatoes compared to this issue:

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/19/nyregion/19school.html

I suspect that Mayor Bloomberg and most NYC legislators (probably including Speaker Silver) will be making this their #1 priority.

5:34 PM  
Anonymous charliehall said...

'free busing '

I lived in Baltimore while I was in graduate school and I didn't see the school system providing transportation even for public school students -- they had to take the regular public transit buses. Have things changed? If not, how could the city provide free busing for students in private schools if it doesn't even transport its own students?

5:37 PM  
Blogger Rebecca said...

totally unrelated just thought you'd be intersted:
http://www.cnn.com/video/player/player.html?url=/video/us/2006/01/18/gallagher.breaking.away.cnn&wm=10

6:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OM i highly doubt that this will actually benefit the yeshivas themselves in any way, especially the way they treat.

Reminds me of the time long ago when Rabbi Bender paid the rabbeim on friday with loaves of bread. If the idea was to benefit the schools themselves, there would be some kind of system like the many lawrence proposals to balance the disporporitonate amount of taxpayers attending public schools.

I agree with DB the minute this actually takes effect, every yeshiva executive director will know exactly who got the break just like he can tell you in his sleep which parents pay full, which pay 80% which have multiple scholarships, etc.

8:44 PM  
Anonymous SephardiLady said...

Support the program now and worry about the tuition increase later.

It would be a big breakthrough to receive this type of credit and one might (wishfully) hope such a credit would extend to other communities.

If the schools raise the tuition by $500 due to the credit, I would rather fight the schools on their policies than pass up an opportunity such as this one.

11:03 PM  
Blogger gabe said...

"Still Wonderin' said...
As for Brooklyn's yeshivot, i suspect that as soon as/if this is put into effect, tuition across-the-board will magically rise by about...$500."

It sounds like you've got a real problem with Brooklyn. Just a little bit of information for you: I have 5 Children enrolled in Brooklyn, Yeshivos. 1 High School boy, and 4 elementary school children. The total tuition (no breaks or scholarship. Full tuition, building fund, and dinner pledge-as I believe the tuition bill comes before Con Ed or Keyspan and certainly before the phone bill). My payments are less than ANY school outside of Brooklyn. ($26,700.00) Anywhere else, including 5T, the tuition bill would be a minimum of $10,000.00 more. So if you're point is that the Brooklyn Yeshivos take advantage of their parents, they certainly don't take any greater advantage than other areas. If you're insinuating that Brooklyn Yeshivos (as opposed to those located outside of Brooklyn)will immediately try to get their hands on the additional funds, Guess what! they're entitled to it. Because they charge far less than other schools to begin with.

11:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please explain to me why anyone would get so excited about saving a mere $500 a year when yeshiva tuition averages $15,000 per child in some schools.

If the tax credit were in the thousands of dollars, that would be a real savings, but how is $14,500 so different than $15,000?

5:25 AM  
Anonymous SephardiLady said...

When you are living paycheck to paycheck and you have very little if anything in the bank, or you are possibly climbing deeper and deeper into debt (all scenarios I know of tuition payers), a $500 savings is darn exciting. Even a $5 savings could be exciting when you have to choose between food and tuition.

Your comments above just go to demonstrate the lack of compassion that people have towards money issues in the frum community.

$500 is a lot of money! Just to put the number into realistic terms (at least for our small, non-tuition paying family), $500 is a month's worth of groceries and gas, a year's worth of life insurance, 6 months worth of auto insurance, a year's worth of dental insurance, car maintenance for almost the entire year, clothing and shoes for the entire year.

Let's be sensitive. People in our community are suffering from tuition. Either they are falling deeper and deeper into debt or they are eating up their assets. $500 is like a lifeline if you are in either position. And, the sad thing is how many people just scoff at $500.

8:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I apologize- I didn't think of it that way. I was only thinking that when you're paying such a huge amount of tuition, that a $500 discount just doesn't seem all that much, that it wouldn't make a tangible difference. I wasn't scoffing at the frum community at all and I'm sorry if it seemed that way.

But I see now what you mean- it's not just a tuition discount, it's money that can make a real difference elsewhere, be it shoes or clothes or insurance. I just wasn't thinking along those lines. Again, I'm sorry.

1:37 PM  
Anonymous SephardiLady said...

Apology accepted. It takes a real mentsch to apologize and obviously you are just that.

I just wanted to express my thoughts on the matter in hopes of increasing a greater sensitivity to the subject of money in general and the crushing burden of tuition in particular.

I just see such a great amount of insensitivity to money issues in the frum community and it makes me sad and it needs to be combatted through education.

We as a community need to increase the awareness of the burden and increase sensitivity. A good place to start would be to help people understand what small amounts of money (like $500) mean to even high income earning families, as I demonstrated above. Another really, really important thing is to push the schools to be sensitive to the little expenses that add up. Lists of required supplies should be distributed well in advance of school so that the supplies can be bought when they are on sale for dirt cheap. Extra-curricular activity invitations for mother-daughter brunches, etc should be sent to the parents directly, rather than sent through the children. These activities can really strain an already strained budget, but it is very hard to say no to your children when their teachers have got them excited about an activity.

8:29 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...

Sephardilady, I'm so glad you commented regarding this. The complete lack of regard I've been seeing from commenters on some other blogs for what $500 can mean for a parent in the Orthodox world - or any struggling parent, for that matter - is beyond my comprehension. I know many parents who would do anything to get the "negligible" $500 per child tax credit that some of these people are so dismissive of.

8:46 PM  
Anonymous SephardiLady said...

My pleasure Orthomom. We really need to educate people about the pennies and dollars can mean to people struggling (which in the Orthodox world is likely the majority of tuition paying parents).

I think the most effective way of educating people is to point to what $500 can purchase. It is nothing to laugh at.

9:31 AM  
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