MAILBAG: Open Letter to Beis Yaakov of Boro Park President

37

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[To Mr. Hershel Lieber, President Bais Yaakov of Boro Park]

Dear Mr. Lieber,

In a public letter published in the Rosh Hashanah edition of Mishpacha family magazine, you described the school’s dire financial situation in response to an article that led some to believe the crisis had passed. In the letter, you made it clear that the situation has not improved, and that the school is still buckling under a huge burden of an over $3 million debt, and over 2/3rds of that figure is owed to teachers and staff.

While your letter certainly gave us a glimpse into the often closed financial records of our children’s schools, I as a parent of 3 children in Bais Yaakov, am left with more questions than answers.

You stated, “One does not have to be an accountant to realize that we are running a huge deficit that is growing at a rate of at least a half a million dollars a year.”

The question that everyone reading this letter will ask is, why are you running such a deep deficit? According to your own statement, your average monthly payroll is $450,000. Here is a short (and highly simplified) possible budget statement for your school on an annual basis:

Item                                                                          Amount

Salaries $5,400,000
Mortgage (assuming a $12,000,000 note) $1,000,000
Utilities $200,000
Insurance $75,000
Supplies $50,000
Misc. Expenses $1,000,000

The total expenditures for your school should not exceed $8,000,000 annually.

Now, with regards to income, here are the figures. Bais Yaakov has approximately 2,000 students. If the average tuition paid per student was a rock-bottom $4,000, that alone equals $8,000,000. Many parents pay much more than that. Plus, there is income generated from the summer day camp, Day Care program, Headstart, and other government funding. Without being an accountant, I would estimate the income of the school should be approaching $10 million annually.

As a parent in Bais Yaakov, I know that delinquency in tuition payment is not tolerated. If a parent is consistently late in paying their tuition, their children are not allowed back into class during specific periods of the year. This is strictly enforced. At the beginning of every school year, admission cards are sent only to those who have a $0 balance from the previous year. Without an admission card, students are NOT allowed into class for the new year.

As parents, we have the right to know and understand why our daughters’ school is failing financially. We understand that boys’ schools have much higher payroll expenses and the tuition cannot be expected to cover the full cost in most circumstances. Girls’ schools are by and large expected to cover their budgets through tuition. There is not much sympathy amongst ba’alei tzedaka to donate towards the operating costs of a girls’ school.

Mr. Lieber, your letter was an eye-opener for us, but probably not in the way you intended. You gave us a taste of what is going on, but not the full picture. As parents, we are key stakeholders in the school’s future existence, and we demand a better explanation as to what is going on. Financial incompetence cannot and should not be tolerated in any institution, much less the school where we entrust our daughters’ chinuch.

Respectfully yours,

A parent of 3 children in Bais Yaakov


37 COMMENTS

  1. I don’t send my kids to BYBP but the letter he wrote most definitely did raise more questions.

    The letter writer raises good points -some are based on assumptions which can be a problem-that the school needs to address.

  2. Interesting letter, but he’s estimating a very low utility cost. Electricity alone shoukd come close to the $200,000 a year and the heating cost should be at least double that. I wouldn’t be surprised if the annual utility costs approach $1 million.

    There are cost savings that can be made in any school.

  3. There are minimums and there are minimums. Do you really think the family with 8+ kids in school is paying the “rock bottom” price? How about the family with neither parents working for two years? There are ALWAYS some people paying (almost) nothing.

  4. your numbers are way off. very few are paying 4000.00 and there are many cases where people pay as much as zero. your expenses are way off too. before writing this dumb article check out the facts.

  5. $50,000 for supplies? does this include maintenance supplies? Toilet paper and paper towels cost more then that for a school year. What about lunches, teachers insurance, vehicle insurance, books, chairs, desks, and all sorts of other equipment. What about pensions, vehicle gas, there is no way for anyone other then a auditor to come up with any amount on how much things should cost

  6. As others have mentioned these numbers are very simplistic. I’ll add that there is no accounting for taxes, social security or any benefits the school may offer its employees. Those things alone could add up to well over a million dollars.

  7. Chalomos ! wishful thinking! and self serving calculations. Just for starters..
    “If the average tuition paid per student was a rock-bottom $4,000then…..” Most families with several children in the school cannot afford anything close to that amount per child. Any Rebbi or Kollel family is years behind on tuition as they are behind in getting paid too.
    Hundreds of our families are on unemployment and if you think that no one get in to school with any balance owed from the previous years you are sadly mistaken. If every family who owed money had their children thrown out you would find that hundreds of children would be in the streets.
    All the other assumptions are faulty as well.
    Wishing you a Gmar Chasima Tova

  8. I’m completely unfamiliar with the situation of this school, but I would argue that in general more transparency is a good thing. I recently took a position on the advisory board of a Jewish nonprofit group and I convinced them to publish regular summary financial statements so that all members and contributors would know exactly what our financial situation is.

  9. YOU NEGLECT TO INCLUDE PAYROLL TAXES AND MANDATORY WORKERS
    COMP AND DISABILITY WHICH WOULD TOTAL $500,000 PER YEAR.YOU ALSO GROSSLY UNDERESTIMATE MANY OF THE OPERATING COSTS.

    ADDITIONALLY, YOU ARE NAIVE IF YOU BELIEVE THAT EVERYONE PAYS A MINIMUM OF $4000/ YEAR PER CHILD IN TUITION. MANY STUDENTS COME FROM LARGE FAMILIES WITH SMALL INCOMES. TO THE CREDIT OF THE SCHOOL, THESE CHILDREN ARE GIVEN THE JEWISH EDUCATION THEY ARE ENTITLED TO, REGARDLESS OF THEIR PARENTS’ ABILITY TO PAY.

  10. you make the assumption that all parents are paying at least $4000, i am sure that at least 40% of the parent body does not pay close to that and there are many parents that pay nothing or close to. I am sure that many of your numbers such as those for supplies and those for insurance are not accurate. most frum schools do not bring in enough money to cover their expenses. they have tradionally relied on donors and fund raising to cover the shortfall. bais yaakov of all schools has done less fundraising than most schools.

  11. The writer is so off base with his/her numbers rendering the article silly.

    Speaking of transparency I’ll say the schools should be fully transparent when they are able to demand full & honest transparency of personal finances from every parent requesting a tuition break.

    Truth be told if anybody was ready to donate a significant amount of money I’m sure the schools administration would open their financial books upon request. To all others including small donor its “none of your business”

  12. One more thing, any school whether boys or girls that provides scholarships ie reduced tuition rate to those who can’t afford full tuition (most people) are entitled to your tzedaka dollars likely before giving your tzedaka dollars to the many worthy chesed organizations. Ask your local orthodox Rabbi.

  13. The author of this letter questions the financial competence of the askonim running the school and, by thinly veiled implication, their honesty. In light of the author’s obvious woeful ignorance of the dynamics of a Yeshiva’s finances, however, that implication is not only offensive, it’s downright laughable.

    The author, as a parent, declares his “right to know…” and presumes to “demand a better explanation”. What is the basis for these so-called “rights” and demands? A godol b’yisroel or perhaps a parnes responsible for that kehilla may may have a basis for statements like that. A large donor to the institution may have a basis.

    But a *parent*? This is Brooklyn and parents have choices. If you don’t like the way things are run at BYBP vote with your feet and switch your daughters to another school! That’s your only “right”! Mind you, I agree that the parent body have an *interest* and are entitled to show *concern*. They are not entitled to *demand*.

    If you have concrete ideas that you think might help, why not privately and respectfully approach the askonim who have far more skin in the game and knowledge of the situation than you do and offer to do something productive. Anonymous, innuendo-filled letters on a blog don’t qualify as helpful.

  14. This is why I wonder why David Greenfield who said he would fight to solve our problems is AWOL and a key ally I love mosques Bloomberg. We MUST send our kids to public school in order to send a message to govt. Our public schools should not be the domain of illegals and gangs.

  15. I work for a Yeshiva. The numbers are way off.

    It costs us about $10,000 per student on average for about 650 kids (boys and girls).

    If the numbers were the same that would be $20,000,000 for BYBP. I know it costs us more, but I’m sure BYBP’s price per student is well over $4,000 per student.

  16. No matter whether this author is right or wrong in any of her calculations, the main point is, why can’t the yeshiva fill in the blanks?
    Presumably, the yeshiva is not looking to make a profit, so why can’t they open their books to the parent body and the whole world? Why should it be, as Ani Oymer says in comment #14, “none of your business”?

  17. As the child of a head of a school (Not BYBP) I know that the Writers numbers are way off. The Writers numbers are grossly underestimated and simplified and are clearly evident of someone not in Chinuch. If the Writer thinks that every family is paying at least $4,000 (s)he should wake up and become in touch with the world around them.

  18. To #20 and #21:

    1. Organizations and people open their books to those to whom they are accountable. Yeshivos aren’t accountable to either of you.

    2. If they exposed every expense line item on their balance sheets, the know-nothings here who are commenting on the deficit in general would apply their ignorance to every line item. No askan in his right mind would want to deal with that.

    3. Producing an audited financial report for an organization of the size and complexity of a typical Yeshiva costs lots of money. For most Yeshivos this isn’t a legal requirement so they would rather save the money. If either of you care to underwrite the expense of course, it would be a different matter. (I’m assuming, of course, that the big-mouths who are calling for transparency would settle for nothing less.)

  19. Why would Baalei Tzedaka give only to boys’ schools & not to girls’? What, girls don’t deserve a quality education? Try telling that to the wives of Kollel guys whose decent education enables their ill-educated (for the world of work) husbands learn in Kollel for ever!

    And as FEMALE teacher…why should I, with my degrees, awards, qualifications etc receive less than an English-deficient Rebbe with no training?

    This may not be your intent, Mr. Author, but you got THIS teacher’s dander well & truly up with your indignant article. You should be kissing the ground your daughters’ teachers walk on!

  20. No Yeshiva will open their books (and they all claim to be a shul so they don’t have to file a tax return – even the girl schools) except for YTY. That is why I will never donate a penny to any Yeshiva other than YTY.

  21. This letter is offensive, insulting and disgusting on many levels. the least the writer who implies wrongdoing on the part of those who run the school can do is sign his name. Anonymous sniping makes for great ashon hara on a blog, nothing more. YWN should know better then to publish something like this (or has YWN sunk to the levels of being just another blog?).

  22. Maybe I’m missing something but my daughters attend a large mainstream flatbush bais yaakov and my tuition is roughly $8,000 per child. Who gets off paying only $4,000?

  23. She must have been born in 1910! Can u tell me who gets insurance for a school today at $75,000????? Does she have ANY idea what miscelleneous supplies costs a school??!! Her figures are WAY out!!!!! Yes, schools are in a great deficit today and although she talks about the stringency they apply to faulty payers, there are exceptions whose children cannot be denied admission. No, it is not every laymen that knows the exact balance of every Yeshiva/school!!! She should speak to the accountant b4 putting a letter out like that! A Gmar Tov.

  24. I am SHOCKED that YWN would publish a letter like this without even an ounce of understanding about running a massive organization like Bais Yaakov.

    And during the Aseres Yemei Teshuvah no less!

  25. I truly beleive that the writer, even with the best of intentions, greatly understated the expenses. But he also understated the incomes from gov’t programs.

    Parents are not entitled to see the “books” – only askanim are – and Mr Lieber is an askan par excellence, and should be give a yasher koach for his voluntary efforts – not abuse and innuendos.

    The issue that I take with BYofBP, and with ALL the Mosdos – whether boys or girls is about full and timely payment of the teaching staff. Teachers must be paid in full and on time – before any and all other expenses. This is pure menshlechkeit, due according to the Torah, and a pure logical chinuch issue (a teacher / Rebbe can not focus on teaching if he can’t pay the grocer!).

    I firmly beleive that teachers and Rebbes should get paid BEFORE any and all Administrators, Rosh Yeshivas, or Chassidish Rebbes (if it is their chassidus’s school) take theirs. I truly beleive that parents and donors would respect a statement like “our Administratyion has not been paid for months – but our Rebbes and teachers have been B”H paid on time”. A lot more that then the reverse statements that we hear all the time.
    It’s high time for change!!!

  26. Whatever the actual books of this school are there is one basic fact. An agency that does not have its books open to the public has no right to my collect money from people. What with the poor quality of our Chinuch system and the complete resistance to serious improvements, it takes a lot of chutzpa for these organizations to pressure us for tzdaka. I’ll give money to Chinuch when Chinuch starts trying to work with the community, not control and exploit it.

  27. The writer of this “Open Letter” may be frustrated at having to pay the tuition, and on a timely basis. But the bulk of his figures in both, the School’s income and expenses are way, way off. Much smaller institutions than BAis Yakov of BP have monthly Electric bills approaching $40,000. Running the A/C system and the lights is expensive. What about paying for gas heating and cooking?! If someone wants to get rich, they will pick another line of work like Real Estate or the Stock market. A Chinuch institution is the wrong place to get rich.

  28. Everyone is entitled to see the books. Every non-profit (except for houses of worship) must file a Form 990 with the IRS. In the 990, the organization must tell about it’s finances for the past year.

    There are various places online that one can find the 990’s posted. The most famous is guidestar.org