The OU has put out a self-serving bit of hogwash trumpeting its vaporous initiative to fix the tuition crisis plaguing the Orthodox community.

In brief, th OU presents a two-prong approach. The first is a cost-cutting and revenue-enhancing strategy for the near term. The cost-cutting elements are saving money by joining together with schools and other groups to obtain insurance as part of a large pool and taking advantage of energy efficient technologies to save more money. The revenue-enhancement comes through hiring grant-writers, encouraging people to use the OU internet toolbar, and setting up ‘Kehilla Funds’ whereby all members of the community donate money towards supporting the schools, even those members who don’t have children.
Let’s look at each aspect of this laughable proposal. Let’s say that the insurance savings are $100k per school, and the energy savings are another $100k – both well above estimate. The cost-cutting measures, estimated high, in a school of 500 students, lead to a savings of $400 per student, assuming all the savings go directly to lowering tuition, and average tuition, per the post, is $15k, you’ve now lowered tuition by a whopping 2.67%. Wow, that’s totally a “radical impact in terms of savings.” What nonsense.

As for the revenue-enhancing meaures, grant-writing is great, but if Jewish philanthropy in general is suffering, I don’t see how it helps that much. It’s just more organizations competing for a shrinking pool of money. To put things in perspective, every $500,000 raised can reduce tuition no more than $1,000, assuming 500 students per school. Even if every school raised another $500k through grants, we’d still have an enormous problem, and there’s no reason to believe that there’s $500k per school available to be raised, no matter how many grant-writers you hire.

As to the OU toolbar, that’s the biggest scam of all. Yes, a small handful of very broad-based organizations have used them successfully. Our community isn’t going to benefit that much, since we’re just not big enough. Moreover, it seems like the OU will suddenly become a grant-making org, channeling whatever money is raised to whichever school it likes. No details are provided about how the OU intends to make those decisions. And anyone who believes that you can make those kinds of funding decisions without spending quite a bit of money to create and support that decision-making apparatus doesn’t know anything about economics, or about philanthropy. This is nothing other than a thinly-disguised effort by the OU to squat on a source of revenue.

The last idea, of Kehilla Funds,  doesn’t hold up either. In the Jewish world, the number of families with kids in school easily dwarfs those without. Those with kids are already paying, so know we’re dealing with just those without kids. Let’s say that out of 1000 Jewish families in a neighborhood there are 250 with no kids in school. Let’s say they all give the $360/year that the OU proposes = $90,000. Let’s say that the remaining 750 families average three kids in school at $15k/child. That’s a total tuition cost of over $33 million! The $90k we just raised into the ‘Kehilla’ fund doesn’t make a damn bit of difference.

Tomorrow we’ll look at part 2, in which the OU tries to take credit for a grassroots community initiative. Stay tuned.

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