By: Rabbi Yossi Zeidman, Cheder Lubavitch of Morristown
I was very shocked and dismayed to read the letter the author wrote on behalf of her friend. We have a chinuch crisis, and the article and its comments pushed me to stand up and say something.
There is a serious problem in our schools, and it is our mentality regarding teachers and their salaries.
A great sefer that every Lubavitcher should own is Shaa’rei Chinuch, which is a compilation of many letters and sichos from the Rebbe about the importance of proper chinuch. In the section about parental obligations, there are a few direct quotes from the Rebbe addressing the financial strain of chinuch al taharas hakodesh. The Rebbe says that tuition must be the very first expense on a household budget!
Can you imagine? Before rent, before food, before health insurance. Before clothing. Thinking your daughter deserves a full education and diploma, without fully paying for it is unacceptable. The author’s friend (and our community as a whole) needs to view tuition as her number one priority. A teacher being two months behind in paychecks cannot be considered acceptable. Four or five months is not when the emergency begins!
The author described the stress and problems behind the closed doors of her friend’s house. Isn’t there a lot of stress that teachers deal with, wondering how they will afford their own necessities? Are we considering that? Our mindsets and perspectives need to change.
We need to realize that teachers are suffering as a result of this mentality. When teachers suffer, the whole school is at risk. If a school cannot provide for its teachers, it cannot provide for its students. The author’s friend who refuses to move tuition to the top of her budget is causing untold stress and despair for the teacher, and subsequently for the rest of the students in the class.
I’ve come to learn that great teachers and great students do not make a viable and financially successful school. Look at my incredible cheder and you’ll see why.
We have award-winning staff, such as R’ Mannis Frankel who won the Menachem Education Foundation’s teacher of the year award.
The teachers have instilled an amazing set of middos in their students. Last year’s eighth graders worked tirelessly to raise money for a class trip, and then unanimously decided, on their own, to buy a megillah for their beloved rebbie, R’ Tenenbaum, instead.
Our students are also ahead of their peers when it comes to academics. I’m very proud of my talmid for coming in first place in the international Sefer HaMitzvos Chidon. (Link to donate to my school is at the bottom of the article.)
Despite this proven success in education, the teachers here are nevertheless behind in our paychecks. In Morristown there is Baruch Hashem a concerted effort to pay tuition, while in many schools that is not the case. However, we are still in a financial emergency, due in part to the attitude and outlook about the priority of tuition and the importance of teacher salaries. One month behind in pay is one month too many! When will our Chabad community and schools fully understand this? When will we step up our fundraising to ensure teachers are paid on time? When will we stop having rachmanus on parents at the expense of the teachers? Everyone knows you need to have mesirus nefesh for chinuch, but reading what the Rebbe says will reveal that we have it backwards. It’s not the teachers who must have mesirus nefesh to go into debt in order to teach. It’s the parents who must have mesirus nefesh to afford the chinuch they want for their children.
The author stresses that her friend really wants to pay tuition, but her other expenses are higher importance on her budget. If we would all make a concerted effort to follow the Rebbe’s horaos, our schools would be in better conditions. What would this mother do if she paid tuition first, and then needed to pay for her other expenses, like rent and food? Would she go to the store with a sense of entitlement and say: “I’ve been buying your produce the last few years. I don’t have money for you now, but because I want to pay you, you must accept that as good enough, and give me food.”? Of course not. She would borrow money from friends or family if she really needed to. That is what parents must do. That is the mesirus nefesh needed in today’s times for chinuch. Why should teachers have to beg and borrow and rely on handouts from their family, so they can afford to continue teaching?
When teachers are not everyone’s first priority, the school is doomed to fail. When an administration allows a parent to continue sending their child to school with overdue tuition, the school has just placed the parents’ wellbeing ahead of its staff!
Of course we should do everything we can to help families pay for the services teachers provide. We should get more government funding. The community should give more assistance. The parents themselves should be more involved with raising scholarship funds, to help cover costs. Ultimately, though, our mindset needs to change.
I applaud the administration that this author unashamedly rebuked. I wish more schools and parent bodies showed the same dedication to its staff.
The Rebbe says that Hashem does not chas v’shalom let financial burdens get in the way of Chinuch. Hashem surely sends extra brachos to those who give themselves over to chinuch al taharas hakoidesh. I give everyone a bracha for parnasa and that מים רבים לא יוכלו לכבות את האהבה- the טרדות הפרנסה should not chas v’shalom extinguish or even dampen our love and connection to Hashem. I give everyone a bracha to have the understanding to follow in the ways our Rebbe directed.
A Gezunte Zummer!
You can donate to Cheder Lubavitch of Morristown here. Thank you for your support. Any donations are very much appreciated.
(Photos are from my Kita Daled class: Making rain sticks for Zayin/Yud Zayin Cheshvan. Decorating masks for Purim, and making a video about Sefer Yehoshua.)