When I lived in a smaller Jewish community, I had 2 children in school. My husband & I were not earning much; I was earning a little more than him, & nearly all of my salary after paying for childcare for my 3 younger children was used to pay tuition. We also gave most of our maaser money to the school, adding up to 2 years of tuition. This ended when I lost my job after my boss found out I was expecting another baby.
My husband & I met with the school administrator to tell him I’d lost my job & would no longer be able to pay full tuition as we’d been paying. The executive director told me to “just find another job”. I told him that though I was trying, I was having some trouble, due to my husband’s long work hours & the fact that I visibly pregnant. He suggested that if we had more mesiras nefesh we’d manage to find the money anyways. Years before I’d given up my once-weekly cleaning help & a replacement shaitel in order to pay full tuition; by this point I’d resorted to feeding my children powdered milk instead of fresh. (Once it was clear that I wouldn’t find a job I removed my younger children from daycare & kept them home with me; we also qualified for WIC services, which allowed me to feed my children B”H). So I asked the administrator in what areas he expected me to economize so as to afford full tuition. His reply was that we weren’t trying hard enough.
A friend of ours, who was a pediatrician, told us that when she had enrolled her children in the same school years before, this administrator told her that he expected her to work additional shifts so she could pay extra money to the school in addition to full tuition for her two children.
The problem was that in this school about half of the students didn’t pay any tuition because they were children of kollel members, teachers, or administrators. Therefore the administration was forced to balance the school budget on the backs of those who were not klei kodesh. We never wanted anything for free, but after I lost my job we were earning much less than these klei kodesh & were simply unable to pay full tuition anymore. B”H eventually the administrator agreed to give us a discount; however, this humiliating treatment was one reason we decided to leave the community when my husband finished his training & found another job.