Tuition at Jewish schools is probably the most significant expense that Orthodox parents face in raising a large religious family, and prices are only climbing higher. For a family with five or six children, total tuition bills can easily top $100,000 per year!
Sometimes I wonder why the shidduch crisis, a largely undocumented, understudied, and anecdotal problem gets so much community attention and resources, when the easily-quantified, often-studied, and broadly-felt problem of tuition costs stares us in the face, still unsolved.
The OU has been advocating support for a bill that will ease the yeshiva tuition problem in New York State by making tuition costs tax-deductible for middle class families, and providing a tuition credit to poor families. Without getting into the details of the bill, my questions is how is this a good idea? Why should New York State taxpayers pay to send Yossi to yeshiva? Do we want to pay to send Katherine to Catholic school, or Mahmoud to madrassa?
Some will argue that we are merely getting a refund because we don’t use the public school system. But of course, many people don’t use the public school system. Should people without children get the refunds as well? It’s not like we don’t benefit from public schools – the existence of an educated American population is a bedrock on which our national prosperity is built. We expect that most everyone we deal with has a high school diploma, and can read, write, do basic math, and have a shared cultural currency. We would be much poorer and far far less well if we were surrounded by ignorant, illiterate brutes (as we once were in Europe).
We do have a problem with tuition in our communities. It’s a problem we made for ourselves, and it’s one we will have to solve for ourselves. Let’s not go looking in the public till. The OU urges you to call Governor Spiter at (800) 319-3403. I say call him, and express your opposition to the Lopez-Goldin Tuition Tax Deduction Bill.