Sep 7, 2014
The Real Problem with High Tuition

Op-Ed: A NY tax lawyer writes that the real source of the tuition problems which religious schools face is the attitude of school administrations.

This article was written by a tax lawyer in New York who advises executive directors and asked to keep his name confidential.


In an article published by a CPA who works predominantly with not-for-profit organizations, the author accuses religious-school parents of having a low-priority attitude towards paying tuition for their children. The author tries hard to show that tuition payments should be a top priority not a low priority. It's in the attitude - he claims.

Attitude is certainly a factor. But, the real problem is not with the parents' attitude. The real source of the tuition problems which religious schools face, is the attitude of school administrations.

One factor which burdens religious families, is the tax law which prohibits tax deductions for tuition payments. Charitable contributions to religious organizations are tax deductible. Payments for religious services provided by churches or synagogues are tax deductible. Membership fees in religious organizations are tax deductible. But, if the payment is "tuition" rater than "donation", then, the payment is not tax deductible.

Religion cannot be taught in USA public schools. Therefore, the teaching of religion is confined to private religious organizations. Synagogues, churches, mosques, etc. can provide their members with unlimited religious education funded by donations. The teaching of religion is not considered a tangible benefit, therefore, payments for religious teaching can be classified as a donation without receiving a tangible benefit. Such payments could be tax deductible if only the organizations agreed to cooperate and classify such payments as donations. There are schools which teach both religious subjects and secular subjects. Payments for the secular portion of the education are legitimately classified as tuition. Payments for the religious portion of the education can easily be classified as donations if the education is provided by a synagogue or church rather than by a school. It is easy to operate as two separate organizations - one religious and one secular. Yet, most religious schools refuse to help the parents and refuse to classify the religious portion of the payments as donations. With such an attitude, how can schools accuse parents of having a bad attitude?

There is one religious organization in the USA which did classify all payments for religious education as donations. This is the Church of Scientology. After mounting a fierce legal battle against the IRS to be recognized as a religious organization, they earned a tax deductible status for all the donations they receive. The IRS issued the Church of Scientology a private letter ruling (No. 93-73) which recognizes all payments for their religious education as tax-deductible donations. The most difficult challenge which the Church of Scientology faced was achieving recognition as a religion and a religious organization. Once they were recognized, tax deductions for their religious education followed.

The Jewish religion does not need to fight for recognition as a religion. All Jewish religious organizations are recognized by the IRS as not-for-profit organizations. Every Jewish religious school has or should have a synagogue. There is no limit on how much religious education synagogues can provide their member families. Payments for religious services and education provided by a synagogue are legitimate tax-deductible donations, even when such donations are fixed rather than voluntary. Membership fees in Synagogues are also fixed, mandatory, and tax-deductible. (Fixed donations for religious education are explicitly allowed in private letter ruling 93-73). Yet, Jewish religious schools refuse to cooperate with parents. With such an attitude, how can schools accuse parents of having a bad attitude?

A Jewish CPA in California sued the IRS, claiming that he can deduct the religious portion of his payments to his children school. He lost. He lost because the school issued him one receipt for "tuition". The school refused to issue two separate receipts - one "tuition" receipt for the secular portion of his children education, and a separate "donation" receipt for religious services to his children. Having only one receipt, the government needed to get entangled in having to determine the correct percentage of the religious portion of the payments. The court ruled that such entanglement is prohibited. The Church of Scientology, on the other hand, does issue separate receipts for religious services and for non-religious education. Students at the Church of Scientology schools can deduct the religious portion of their payments because their schools cooperate with them. Students in Jewish religious schools cannot deduct the religious portion of their payments because their schools refuse to cooperate with them.

The problem is indeed in the attitude. Not the attitude of the parents, but, the attitude of the schools.

Practically all religious schools in America depend on charitable donations by supporters. The reality in most schools which provide a religious education to children, is that the person responsible for collecting donations for the school is the highest paid individual in the school. There are executive directors (the American euphemism for fund-raiser) who earn salaries or commissions of more than a quarter million dollars a year, while teachers in the same school are paid a salary which qualifies them to buy food with food stamps. The high salaries of the executive directors is not something which they will easily give up. Being the top decision makers in most schools, executive directors will do everything in their power to maintain the dependence of their schools on donations.

In the USA, public-school tuition is funded by the government. Property taxes are the primary source of this funding. Every child in America has the right to attend public school without paying a penny in tuition. All property owners have to pay school taxes regardless of whether they do or do not have children in school. Every tenant who rents a home also pays this school tax as part of the rent. There is, however, a class of parents with children in school who have to pay twice for their education. They pay the school tax like everyone else, and then, they also have to pay tuition for their children who attend a religious school. The anti-religious discrimination in USA public schools denies religious families access to free public education, unless they are willing to compromise their religious observance and values.

The political power of the Jewish population in America is infinitely stronger than the political power of the Church of Scientology. The Church of Scientology mounted a merciless battle against the US government and the IRS and won the recognition and tax-exempt status they sought. In a different arena, America has laws against sex discrimination. Yet, every public-school building in America has rooms into which boys or girls cannot enter strictly because of their gender. Bathrooms are the most expensive areas of a building to construct, yet, separate bathrooms are provided for boys and girls, despite the additional cost, so they don't have to compromise their feelings and values. Why should Jewish religious students have to compromise their feelings and values if they want to avail themselves to public funding for education? The boy-scouts and the girl-scouts in America receive government funding despite the gender-based separation. Many charter schools in America which cater to specific populations are funded by the government. The only ones who are not fighting for equal access to public funding for education, are the leaders of the Jewish communities.

In a landmark decision, in 2002, the US Supreme Court (Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, 536 U.S. 639) permitted the use of school tuition vouchers in religious schools. This decision removed the last legal obstacle to government funding of parents' tuition expenses in religious schools. If the Jewish leaders in America really wanted their children tuition to be funded by the government, like all other children in America, they could have achieved it. The problem is that the Jewish organizations in America are dominated by executive directors who are paid exorbitant salaries or commissions for their fund-raising abilities. If tuition were to be paid by the government, there would be no need for school executive directors. This is something the decision-making executive directors cannot afford. So, the parents are requested to foot the bill instead of the government, and, when the burden becomes too heavy, the schools accuse the parents of having a bad attitude towards paying tuition.

One Jewish community did not give up. The Jewish parents asked their town for tuition vouchers. The town refused and said that the Jewish children are welcome to attend the local public schools. So, all the Jewish students in town showed up at the local public schools. The schools were overwhelmed by the number of students for which they were not prepared, and begged the community leaders to take their children back to their original Jewish schools. The leaders agreed on condition that the town funds the parents' tuition expense. This time, the town agreed.

As we can see, it's all in the attitude. Everything is possible with proper leadership, courage, and unity.

The secular portion of the education is now available for free over the Internet. This way, Jewish religious children can easily be isolated from undesirable influences in public schools. Internet filters are extremely easy to setup to isolate the children from undesirable Internet contents too. The filters can also be designed to allow access only to the Internet school and nothing else. The quality of the over-the-Internet education is far superior to the quality of the secular education in most of the Jewish religious schools in America. By attending over-the-Internet secular education, religious-school expenses can be cut almost in half. Parents' tuition cost can also be cut in half. Yet, the schools resist the transition to over-the-Internet secular education. Some schools go as far as expelling students who dare to avail themselves to this superior secular education. Again, the parents are requested to foot the bill instead of the government, and, when the burden becomes too heavy, the schools accuse the parents of having a bad attitude towards paying tuition.

Yes, the problem is indeed in the attitude. Not the attitude of the parents, but, the attitude of the schools.

If you are a parent, you are already paying your fair share in school taxes. You started paying school taxes before your first child was born and you will continue paying school taxes long after your youngest child will graduate. Don't feel guilty if you cannot pay twice for your children education - once as school taxes and a second time as tuition.

If you are a director at a school, don't blame the parents for your failure to fight for tuition vouchers from the government. It is easier to navigate a ship in the harbor than in the ocean, but, this is not why a ship needs a captain. It is also easier to milk parents for tuition money than to deal with the government, but, this is not why you are a director at the school. The Supreme Court removed the legal barriers to religious-school tuition vouchers. Now it is your turn to act. One Jewish community did the right thing and succeeded. With courage and unity you can do it too.

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Opinions and Comments
Yeah, sure this is the real problem.

To date, I have never heard someone complain about this particular issue yet the author claims that this is the whole problem..
(9/7/2014 12:22:25 PM)
Let's go for it!!!
Are there enough people ready to fight for our rights?!?! What is the next step??
(9/7/2014 12:39:01 PM)
Didn't understand all the nuances
But I grasped the basic idea. Obviously, you are an expert, and like you implied, the schools basically won't do anything to help us. On the contrary, they seem to take a perverse pleasure in making life difficult.Their attitude is pay up and don't expect anything.- not even a decent education.

Show us the books - every set of them!
(9/7/2014 12:53:35 PM)
more sollutions
If 2 people team up and exchange tuition payments, like I pay your oholie torah tuition,and you pay my bais rivkah tuition, for sure, that should be donation. Another way, if you have a business, and you use the journal or newletter to advertise your business in the school, That is a business deduction, but it really goes for your tuition. I bet you can each make a deal with the school on your terms, just like you do with amounts of tuition.
(9/7/2014 1:27:21 PM)
Tuition is way too expensive!!!
Thank you to the anonymous author who wrote the above article. This is information which we parents need to be aware of. However, what do we as parents need to do in order for the above to take place. What is the next step?
Many of us have large families, and I feel like I need a second job to pay almost $4,500 monthly just in tuition fees.... It's crazy! And no, I'm not a rich person, but my kids need to be in school.....
(9/7/2014 1:41:12 PM)
great article.
Who will step up and take care of this in Crown Heights?
(9/7/2014 1:46:37 PM)
Let's do something!!
This is a true story which happened this past year.... A friend of mine went to register his daughter in school. They wanted a very high sum for tuition, when the parent said I can't afford it- he was told there's a public school next door which takes kids for free! The father was fuming, he went to meet the second person who sees people for tuition. He was told sell your summer house so you can pay tuition, father answered : why don't you sell one of yours so you can pay your teachers!!
Parents-- we need to do something constructive, not just give in to the yeshiva demands of high tuition!!
(9/7/2014 1:50:12 PM)
Boruch N. Hoffinger 'HaKohaine ' BS"D
AMAZING! 'Todah raabah' Mr./Mrs. Accountant. May there be more like you. As a 'Kohaine' I give you a BIG 'BROCHO' for your efforts. I don't have school-age children at home, but I worked hard and paid dearly, with my wife Brouria, to pay the tuition costs. Perhaps the parents should organize and make a powerful demand. Now is a great time of year!
Also, 'Todah raabah' Rabbi Israel Heller for previously praising 'The Internet' with the spirit of 'The Rebbe,' contrary to the unwise who didn't think enough of 'The Rebbe MH"M's' usual extremely profound insight to deem 'the Internet' 'kosher,' and vital (If properly guarded)
Dear # 1, whoever you are:
Perhaps the parents weren't aware of this?! Put on your thinking cap over your 'yarmulka.'
(9/7/2014 1:56:04 PM)
why anonymous?
the anonymity of the author is an obstacle to the furtherance of this noble pursuit.
how do we get in touch with this guy? we want to work with him on this.
(9/7/2014 1:57:01 PM)
to #7
If someone owns a summer home they have no business claiming poverty to the tuition committee.
(9/7/2014 2:21:12 PM)
great idea.
Beis Rivka, OT and ULY all have shuls. I'm sure the other schools do too.
So I could donate $5,000 to any school my grandchildren attend in lieu of sechar limud, IF the schools would give me a tax receipt AND not harass my children for that amount of their tuition bills.
It's a win win situation. Schools get funding, my tax liability drops and my children don't have to struggle to pay tuition.
I'd like to hear what the schools have to say about this.
(9/7/2014 2:22:08 PM)
If this plan is feasible under tax law, then the "synagogues" will not be able to turn away those who don't make the "donation" for the religious instruction. No more withholding of report cards or references either if the religious education part is a charity not a school. Also, there will have to be a very careful (and audit proof) allocation between the school's actual expenses (including properly allocated overhead) for the non-deductible secular education; and the costs for the religious education to be funded by deductible donations. And, will parents really take the tuition savings, plus an increased amount to reflect the tax donation and use it to fund the synagogue part of the school?

Perhaps the tax lawyer author can offer his/her services pro bono to set this up for a school and provide the tax opinions that will be needed.
(9/7/2014 2:26:02 PM)
This just may be the most important article published this year on collive. The author should have taken it to the next level and published his real name.

The school admins are for sure part of the problem but its the community as a whole whom have failed on this serious issue. We consistently vote in politicians whom are against helping our schools. If we would just make this our biggest demand we may actually win this battle.

Lastly the KJ school story isn't as simple as made out to be in this article.
(9/7/2014 2:36:59 PM)
Great article
I am a CPA and congratulate you for this well written article.

I am a parent who pays full tuition but agree that its time for our executive directors to work for their salaries and fight for the community.

Good luck
(9/7/2014 2:54:50 PM)
Sorry, but that will not do it. It is nice and all, but the donation for charitable deductions is limited by two things: Low income and high income.

For low income people, they don't itemize on their tax return anyway, so this won't help. Even if it gets them to the point of making it worth it to itemize, the difference won't be so much.

For the high income people, the AMT (Alternative Minimum Tax) claws back a lot of the benefit.

Anyway, this article doesn't explore the consequences on the government funding that existing schools get if they were to reduce their on-paper size so much.
(9/7/2014 2:56:11 PM)
# 7
I may not agree with the whole attitude problem (dont have to pay tuition yet and cant imagine doing that)
But with that said , you need to prioritize, whats more important a summer house or ur childs chinuch?
Why should they give a scholarship to those living in luxury?
Lotsa schools out of town do a serious research before giving discounts so they are given fairly
(IE dont go on expensive vacations and dress ur kids in designer and then cry poor)
(9/7/2014 3:01:19 PM)
a few thoughts from a retired tax accountant
1. Some of the alternative suggestions posted in the comments are unfortunately illegal, you can't call a payment x when it's really y. But the author's suggestion I think could be viable, and should be followed up.
2. Grandparents cannot currently get an income tax deduction for tuition payments for grandchildren, but they can pay grandchildren's tuition without eating into their estate/gift tax exemption -- see your accountant about this.
3. The problem with using internet-based education for secular subjects as one comment suggested is that ALL our children's education needs to be by yirei shomayim and with a proper attitude -- you would be amazed how much secular mindset can be transmitted even in a math class. The Rebbe said this many times, just this week Merkaz Anash posted a story where the Rebbe spoke to Bais Yaakov administrators in yechidus and said ""Teachers must be role models. It is therefore preferable to hire, even for secular studies, a Beis Ya'akov graduate rather than someone who has learned in college."
(9/7/2014 3:22:30 PM)
Interesting Article BUT
Some points:

From an halachic perspective there are many opinions on how much but almost all hold that a portion of tuition is included in maser.

Secondly many Jewish schools already do this for banquet and construction funds. We get paperwork from our kids school for those payments as a charitable deduction.

Finally, the point of this being the solution to our problems is an overstatement to the max. As it depends on the tax situation for each family as far as how much of a benefit you will receive. In addition this is not a dollar for dollar savings but rather a reduction of your taxable income which will be used to calculate your tax. Is this a step in the right direction to make things more affordable absolutely, is it the totality of the solution absolutely not. There are additional issues that the parents and hanhalo need to work on.
(9/7/2014 3:26:22 PM)
Sounds good, however if school classifies limudei kodesh as contribution, how can school pursue the parents who owe to the school? Can they claim in court that they're owed contributions?
(9/7/2014 3:34:44 PM)
Make chinuch number one financial priority over all else.
Chinuch is supposed to be a priority for both parents and the kehillah. So is Chanochas Kallah. Unfortunatly in today's frum world these concepts have been skewed to such an extent that all educational mosdos suffer and the children are the victims. Vacation homes are relics of a past imitation of the wealthy and unneccessary in our times of airconditioning. Likewise, Jewish sleep-away camps stem from the days of "no dogs, no Jews allowed." These are totally unecessary expenses today. Even with scholarships it is costly send even one chilld to camp.Brissim, upsherins, bar and ba mitzvah celebrations, and l'chaims have become obscenely elaborate and expensive. Weddings particualrly suffer from allowing the wedding industry to dictate what is "necessary." At the expense of our schools much is being given to organizations which provide weddings beyond the means of almost any parent, particularlly given that most have a goodly number of children to take to the chuppah. Group trips for teenagers should be eliminated as they are mostly for fun and of limited educational value. More community support should go to strenghtening and supporting local seminaries and yeshivos rather than spending tuitition plus travel dollars on overseas ones (from any country to another.) Traveling to family simachas should be for immediate members first: parents, siblings (not their spouses), and grandparents, then IF it is not a financial burden, aunts, uncles, cousins, siser-in-laws, brother-in-laws,nieces and nephews. Of course all who can afford to should go but too often the expense goes beyond just basic to and from costs and takes money out of tuition budgets. Wise spending of "disposable income" and miser should be encourage. too many families are stuggling to make basic living expenses to be burdened with all the extras expected of them.
(9/7/2014 3:46:07 PM)
Free tuition
Yeshiva should be free. Subsidized by chabad
Parents should donate to chabad their memberships
(9/7/2014 4:52:46 PM)
It's nothing wrong if you like to make money
Only thing is that if you want money go to business
If you prefer to work in a non profit, Mossad you want to help people and elokus , then money is not your priority
Be happy with no more than 70 k of you are an executive director 30 k a secretary
Yeshivas should not be a place for business , to accomodTw relatives with good salaries
If these salRies and book are disclosed This is the best tool for fundraising
(9/7/2014 5:07:38 PM)
Won't work
Because the schools will no doubt loose a lot of funding they already receive and don't tell us about!
(9/7/2014 5:08:15 PM)
Excellent idea
but you'll have to beat the teacher union to get vouchers. Unless you get it on a much more local level - that could be possible...
(9/7/2014 5:08:22 PM)
i agree with ,,17 and 18.
Also. If someone donates to a general scholarship fund, it is deductible. If the donation is earmarked for a specific family or child, them not deductible.
Once you move away from being a school, and more to being a religious organization, you lose significant government funds that are only applicable to schools
(9/7/2014 5:30:22 PM)
to #20
People have been saying that for years, however, kids who live in apartment buildings can't just walk outside and play in their backyards. Weddings should be pared down? You go first with your kids. There is truth to the fact that most of us could cut back somewhere in order to give more to yeshivas or pay more in tuition but most people today are not on the level that people were a few generations ago when they lived to give. I agree that it would be better if things were that way. That still doesn't answer why school directors have such high salaries. It also doesn't answer why the schools don't give a tax receipt for the part of tuition that goes to pay for someone else's child. Maybe part can legally be tuition and part can be legally a donation. As was said above, tax breaks don't help everyone. But I agree with you #20 that we frum Jews have a lifestyle that is overpriced. Even if not a spare penny goes to Jewish education, we frum Jews really need to rein in the spending. The pressures to keep up with the neighbors is just too much in some communities.
(9/7/2014 5:32:30 PM)
Math and Science
Having a Ph.D in physics, and a degree in math, I know something on the subject. There is no problem at all learning it over the Internet at elementary and high-school level. The only problematic area is evolution in biology, and this can be easily skipped. The best place today to learn math and science is . It is completely free, and the teaching level far exceeds anything that any Frum school could afford.

It caters to all ages, from kindergarten to post high-school.

My son, who is now on Shlichus, learned in two summer-vacation months all the chemistry courses that take 4 years in high-school.
(9/7/2014 5:49:46 PM)
Right or wrong???
I know families that have kids at home right now, because the Schools are demanding very large sums, all the tuition from the year before and for the coming year.
(9/7/2014 7:01:17 PM)
Very impressive
I will say, though, that tuition vouchers don't need to be fought for, they are a given (to a certain extent) in yeshivos- if the school is willing to fulfill a certain financial reporting protocol. I know this due to my work. However, even the schools that do receive vouchers, struggle- albeit not as much as those schools that do not apply. Re the tax deductions, yes that would help homeowners and also others who earn enough income to justify the tuition they are trying to deduct on their tax return but not everyone is in that position. Perhaps some of your other more drastic suggestions would work..
(9/7/2014 8:19:52 PM)
What we need to do now is
1. Bug the directors to fight for school tuition vouchers. If all the parents in all the schools unite, something good will happen.

2. Learn math and science on the Internet (with proper filters).

3. If income is too low to benefit from a tax deduction, ask a wealthy friend or family member to make the donation and pay him the amount less his tax savings.
(9/7/2014 8:32:02 PM)
Agree with the solution, but not the problem...
The author presents an interesting solution to alleviate the tuition burden on some parents. But he/she puts the blame of the problem on a peculiar conspiracy theory that the administration puts a heavy burden on the parents because the fundraisers want to remain a vital part of the institution. If that were the case, why bother parents at all? Just make the school 100% dependent on fundraising? That will make them even more indispensable. No? As you can see, that argument is ridiculous.

To actually identify (and therefore solve) the problem we need to answer 2 basic questions:
1- What are the actual costs of education (i.e. why is tuition so high in the first place)?
2- Who is responsible to pay for it?

I don't have enough insight to answer either question with any authority, so I won't even try. But it's probably more constructive to focus on those 2 questions than to drum up some wild conspiracy theories. Besides, let's be real, if somehow the schools did end up getting school vouchers, then the "executives" will figure out how to keep MORE $ for themselves. Not less.
(9/7/2014 8:48:43 PM)
Of marginal benefit
Fascinating idea. I pay over $50,000 a year in tuition for 4 kids. The ability to get a tax deduction on part of my tuition would be very helpful. I will certainly pursue this with my kids' schools. Having said that, since I already pay full tuition, it won't put any more $ into the school coffers.

Most Frum families are not looking for more write-offs - either they're not earning enough or they maxed out their deductions with mortgage, charities, child credits etc. The few families that are still looking for write-offs (myself included) are already paying full tuition (or should be - whether or not they're getting an added tax deduction).

The bottom line therefore, is that the tax solution mentioned in this article would help a very small minority of parents and make a marginal dent in the overall benefit to the school. But then again, every little bit helps and is worth pursuing.

Thanks for the idea.
(9/7/2014 9:24:22 PM)
Giving deductions for religious instruction only helps rich people
Most religious people earning normal salaries and supporting large families don't benefit by tax deducations and are better off claiming standard deductions instead of itemized.
(9/7/2014 9:46:21 PM)
and what's wrong with implementing a legal way to provide a tax deduction to rich people? You think they don't pay or contribute enough to schools to be worthy of a tax deduction for the full tuitions that they pay?
(9/7/2014 11:15:39 PM)
Tuition paid for 40 years
Grandparents give a tax-deductible donation to the school scholarship fund and school then gives scholrship to theor grandkids. You cannot expect my taxes to pay for your tuition. I worked my whole life to educate my kids. Btw i itemized and did ok. Gave tzedekah which is deductible and got paid on the books. If both parents work day cae and after school and day camp is deductible. Find a good accountant eho knows his business. #31 obviously doesnt know how much it costs to run a school. Just utilities in NY are a small fortune. Taxes and workmans comp. etc etc. We must educate our kids to make a living.
(9/7/2014 11:24:10 PM)
Money laundering
Be VERY careful. It is very easy to get sucked into (accidentally but technically) money laundering if the receipt you get doesn't fit the purpose of the donation. An example is a Yeshiva somewhere put down $500,000 from one parent as "tuition." Now we all know Yeshiva is expensive, but do you really think the government will buy that?? And who catches money laundering? The BANK. They have all the software to do so, as required by the government. Genuine donations, not inflated sums, are fine for tax receipts. Always consult a CPA for these huge amounts & demand a receipt for your tuition in the hope you can offset the exorbitant amount you pay against your taxes.
(9/8/2014 1:25:42 AM)
You can solve tuition problem
With the big election coming up this November 4th, every voter can solve this problem with a few phone calls to your Congressman and U.S. Senators (201-224-3121). Ask them to sponsor the proposed DC Civil Rights Act for Equal Educational Opportunity, which will mandate parental choice in our nation's capital at half current costs. This would serve as a model and trail blazer for all 50 states. If they will not sponsor the bill, vote for the candidates who will sponsor it. They are out there. But they need our support and votes to save our children and our future.
(9/8/2014 4:53:16 AM)
Agreed with above
Who will take this step at Cheder Chabad Monsey.
(9/8/2014 9:14:41 AM)
Straight Grandparents
You must be a New Yorker. Didn't say money laundering. Talking about $2-5 k to a scholarship fund. Why I left corrupt Brooklyn!
(9/8/2014 11:54:33 AM)
vouchers even died in Texas
The voucher fight, while the right one, is a long, hard battle. Agudas Yisroel has been lobbying for a decade across the country with minimal results. there are numerous legal hurdles in the States as well. Vouchers are a multi-year struggle. We need shorter-term solutions.

I'd also like to hear clear halachos about using tzedaka to pay tuition (since it supports the mosdos, not just paying your schar limud). Using these tax deductions as suggested would be a help to me, but only marginally to the school: I'd be able to deduct 25% of the cost, so I could give 10% of that 25% in donation.

The bottom line is, schools need a huge source of outside funding (read: not from parents). If it's not vouchers, it needs to be a steady donation from the uber-wealthy (millions per year) or from a foundation.

But it needs to be available right away.
(9/8/2014 12:38:33 PM)
As long as schools are controlled like family businesses without any true transparency or accountability, then well meaning donors will not give. I work for a highly respected non-profit and every donation over $10,000 is subject to rigorous accounting. Quarterly progress charts demonstrating where each penny is spent are submitted to the donors. And any funds earmarked for specific projects must sit in separate escrow accounts until they are spent on the projects they are meant for. This is the ONLY way to get a real donor to look at you.
(9/8/2014 3:25:53 PM)
Free Tuition
You need to consider living in Cincinnati, OH. you can get free tuition.
(9/8/2014 5:58:01 PM)
Moish K
To futher the author's proposal, I would suggest the school officially have separate limudei kodesh and limudei chol school names. The school can then provide a separate tutiion invoice for each component. The invoice paid to the limudei kodesh school should certainly be deductible.
(9/8/2014 7:54:47 PM)
this will never happen. the schools will never allow outsiders a peek into the true fiscal innards...mostly because it would expose the total chaos there, inflated admin salaries, paying teachers under the table, and all that jazz. Great piece, though.
(9/8/2014 11:17:16 PM)
to the CPA
What would be if each school has a scholarship fund, parents pay into that as a tax-deductible donation, everyone as a group has their tuition paid. Is that legal?
(9/9/2014 2:12:05 AM)
The most important point in the article...
America has laws against gender discrimination. Yet, every public-school building in America has rooms into which boys or girls cannot enter strictly because of their gender. Bathrooms are the most expensive areas of a building to construct, yet, separate bathrooms are provided for boys and girls, despite the additional cost, so they don't have to compromise their feelings and values. Why should Jewish religious students have to compromise their feelings and values if they want to avail themselves to public funding for education? The boy-scouts and the girl-scouts in America receive government funding despite the gender-based separation. Many charter schools in America which cater to specific populations are funded by the government. The only ones who are not fighting for equal access to public funding for education, are the leaders of the Jewish communities.

In a landmark decision, in 2002, the US Supreme Court (Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, 536 U.S. 639) permitted the use of school tuition vouchers in religious schools. This decision removed the last legal obstacle to government funding of parents' tuition expenses in religious schools. If the Jewish leaders in America really wanted their children tuition to be funded by the government, like all other children in America, they could have achieved it.
(9/9/2014 2:06:52 PM)

(9/9/2014 4:34:48 PM)
I dont know what the problem or solution is but its not what the author says, say a family is paying 25k in tuition and say they can write it off. then what suddenly they would be able to afford it? if you make 100k a year the write off would be insignificant as a family of say 5 would pay that much income tax. if a family is making 250k the write off on 25k will save you 3k still your paying 22k. im just not sure what hes trying to say if your not making much you wouldnt get the deduction cause your not paying. and if your making alot you can afford to pay the tuition yes deduction or no deduction
(9/10/2014 4:05:29 PM)
Executive directors' salaries etc.
While it may be true that executive directors make very handsome salaries, (exactly how much they make we don't know because of a shameful lack of transparency), they certainly wouldn't mind receiving tax vouchers and /or other government funding because almost all yeshivos are operating in the red. This means that even if additional tuition funds were to come in from the government, a deficit would continue to exist. I know of no school fundraiser today who is able to single-handedly raise the funds necessary to cover their school's deficit So, no, the executive directors, a.k.a. fund raisers, wouldn't be earning less if more funds were to come in from sources other than parental tuition payments. To the contrary, they'd probably claim the school was now in better position to give them a nice raise.
As for summer homes, I agree that a good number of parents have skewed priorities about life's necessities, but the truth of the matter is that unless you sit down with pencil and paper and figure out what it cost to put one's kids into camps for the summer,(check out the prices of those if you have the stomach for it,) you don't know for sure that renting, or even owning, a CHEAP bungalow isn't the more efficient way to go. Of course this doesn't apply to those that own or rent luxury summer homes and cry poverty to the tuition committees...
I wholeheartedly agree that all innovative, legal ideas to reduce the unbearable tuition burdens must be explored, but we should remember that not all things are what they might appear to be at first glance.
(9/11/2014 3:12:25 AM)
Ask Masores Beis Yaacov how they do it. They ka'h always pay their teachers on time.
(9/11/2014 10:28:26 AM)
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