Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Selling schools - boon or bust?

Allow me to divert from Orthodoxy to local politics for a minute. At our shul dinner the other night, I was having a conversation with one of our city councilmen. We were discussing how White Plains is a good value amongst its neighbors, as its schools are rated very highly (although not as highly as Scarsdale, for example) its taxes are relatively low giving us good bang for the buck when it comes to education.

As we talked about how the number of families in the district have grown, we also addressed the idea of school expansion - one of our 5 elementary schools is being rebuilt, and another is being expanded - he mentioned that its a shame that when enrollment was down that the city sold two school buildings outright to two private schools - namely Solomon Schechter of Westchester, and the Deutsche Schul - a school for German expats. I thought about this for a while. Was it really a bad idea to do that? Yes, the school district will need to raise some extra capital for meeting the reversing enrollment trend, but was it a bad thing to sell of those old building to private schools? I think that the answer is no, and here is why:

  • First and foremost, at the time, the schools were not needed and an extra burden on the school system. By selling off these buildings the district not only got cash from the sale, but it also saved cash in not having to maintain buildings that weren't being used.
  • Secondly, by enabling the private schools to exist within city limits, it gave the school district something else - more found money. Ultimately, those communities served by these schools will bring their constituents to live in town, and even though certain services are afforded to local residents who's kids go to private school, nonetheless, there is a nice portion of the school budget saved by families who's kids opt out of the school system, freeing that budget money up for somewhere else.
  • People like choices. Even if they move into a community on the credibility of its private schools, those people might ultimately opt to send their children to public school. In either case, as the reputation of the community grows, so does its popularity, housing prices increase, which also drives tax rolls, and enables the school's budget to grow as well.

All told, I think having local private schools in old city school buildings is a win-win situation for local school districts.

Friday, March 21, 2008

PBC - the Persian Broadcasting Service New Lineup

From all of mine to all of yours - best wishes for a Chag Purim Sameach - A Freiliche Purim - a Happy Purim. In honor of the Holiday, some Purim Humor - a hypothetical look at what the Persian TV service's lineup would look like if the Purim story happened today:

Persian Broadcasting Service New Shows:

Hadassah Montana - Mild mannered Hadassah Yehudi leads a double-life. Normally she is just a regular student at Shushan's Hebrew Institute of Torah, but only a handful of people know her secret - she is really the Queen of all Persia and Media - Queen Esther. This young girl truly has the best of both worlds. Follow Hadassah/Esthers Foibles as she tries to keep her identity secret, along with her Confdants - Uncle Mordechai (Billy Ray Cyrus), Leah, and Hagai, the royal Eunuch.

Persia's Next Top Queen - This reality Show, invites girls from all over the kingdoms 127 countries (from India to Ethiopia) to vy for a spot at becoming the next queen. Contestants are given six months in the palace with all of the cosmetics and clothes they need and are judged by a special panel - the king himself. Celebrity stylists include Tyra Banks, Twiggy, and Zeresh.

Hangman - This twist on the classic game challenges contestants wits to see how many sons of Haman can they hang in just one breath. Hosted by Howie Mandel.

Persian Idol - 24 gods, only one survivor. Pagans promote their deities in a competition of graven images. Hopefully, Jews won't bow to peer pressure.

On The Record - Late night news show, where the king and his servants read from the royal record to see who's good deeds have gone unrewarded. Tonight's Special Guest - Haman, live from the Garden.