Does it pay to work?
This letter was printed in Yated Neeman.
I was called to my son’s cheder to talk about tuition. I was directed to the administrator, who informed me that he would be raising my tuition since, in his words, “You are working in Manhattan and making a nice salary.” (I’m already paying more than most people, as they won’t give me breaks because I’m not learning.)
I tried to explain to him that I am indeed making $61,000 as a computer consultant, but after deducting my work-related expenses, I don’t come out with much more than others. He disagreed with me, and claimed that my salary is a lot higher than what many others earn. And so he decided that I should pay more.
We started discussing the matter and he told me that his salary is $25,000, and that the yeshiva works out his payments so that he is still eligible for government funding. I then explained to him that he makes a lot more than I do. I pay $6,000 in transportation costs a year to get to and from Manhattan, plus another approximately $5,300 for social security, federal and state taxes. (This was a low estimate. I think it’s going to be higher.) I pay another $8,500 for medical insurance. After deducting all these expenses, I am left with $41,200.
He receives approximately $14,500 in HUD, $5,800 in Earned Income Credit, ($4,800 federal + $1,000 state), plus $1,700 in WIC, and $2,100 in HEAP (for utilities). Additionally, his insurance is free (Jersey Care). This leaves him with over $49,000. (This amount is reached even without including other programs, such as free school lunch programs, etc.) This is a lot more than the $41,200 that I make. This calculation also doesn’t include food stamps, because he didn’t volunteer whether or not he receives them. If he does get food stamps, his total income would add up to $56,000. This particular individual is an administrator, but in the event that he was learning full-time and only receiving a kollel check ($4,160) and a night kollel check ($3,000), he would still be making more than $38,000, which is not much less than my $41,200. (This calculation does not include another few thousand dollars possibly earned from morning kollelim, shemiras hasedarim, etc.) To top this all o! ff, I end up paying much more in tuition because I don’t get any breaks.
Add to this the fact that the hours that my wife can work are limited, as she has to carpool the kids and be home with them after playgroup and school hours, since I’m not home until 7 at night. In contrast, this administrator told me that his wife works until later in the afternoon, because he is home between 2 and 4 and takes care of all the carpools and babysitting until his wife returns home from her job.
At the conclusion of this discussion, the administrator told me that he still feels I should pay a higher amount towards tuition since I work.
I am not writing this letter to complain about people being able to manage with the help of government programs. I just want people to understand that just because I work doesn’t mean that I am walking away with more money. In fact, I have the same problems paying tuition as any kollel yungerman may have.
A Yungerman Who Now Works
The situation is very similar in Israel.