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.


Guille Jacu said...

Shalom, Yonah. Very interesting article. My name is Guillermo and I live in Buenos Aires, Argentina, with my wife and 3 children, but about to move to Westchester in a couple of months. We lived in White Plains already in 1996/97 and we love the city. However we had no kids at that time, and hence we are not familiar with the education offerings in the area. Ideally, we would like to send kids to public school, plus hebrew school in the afternoons, which is the way I was raised here in Argentina. How can I get in touch with you to get some advise and orientation on the matter? I search for an e-mail address in your blog but found none. Thanks a lot in advance.

Yonah said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Yonah said...


send it to yonah+w at the-wolfs.com