Now that city teachers have won a hefty, 16 percent pay raise, Jewish education experts are worried about an exodus from day schools to public schools.
According to a survey by the Board of Jewish Education of Greater New York last year, the average maximum salary for head teachers at yeshivas and day schools is about $35,000.
Certified public school teachers (those with master’s degrees and licenses) now earn between $39,000 and $81,231. That means public teachers on their first day earn more than many yeshiva teachers with decades on the job. The disparity in benefits is also substantial.
"We have heard cases where some teachers are taking part in training programs to get master’s degrees after years of working in the yeshiva system … simply because they have to feed their families," said Chaim Lauer, executive director of BJE.
This comes as day schools are struggling to recruit and keep high-quality teachers.
Lauer said his agency planned to undertake a survey during the coming school year to assess any "magnitude of loss" from yeshivas to the public schools.
The new UFT contract has also raised concerns about the impact of 100 minutes added to the school week for city teachers who report for secular instruction at yeshivas immediately after public school.
That concession was given in exchange for 6 percent of the raise.
Last week, City Council Speaker Gifford Miller called on Mayor Michael Bloomberg (who now has full control of the city’s schools) to address the issue. "I am concerned that our students in the city’s yeshivas will be put at a disadvantage," said Miller in a statement. He was responding to concerns raised by Councilman Simcha Felder of Borough Park.
"We’re not interested in letting [teachers] off the hook in terms of the contract they negotiated," Felder told The Jewish Week. "We are interested in allowing some kind of policy where the extra time can be spent at the beginning of the day instead of the end."
Felder said Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott, Bloomberg’s point man on education, signaled that he would address the issue following the appointment of the new schools chancellor, Joel Klein, which was announced Monday. "He said he hopes within a week to have some news," Felder said.
But Lauer said concern over the new schedule had not been raised at BJE principals’ meetings.
"This will not be a major challenge to the majority of schools," said Lauer. "Most of the yeshivas and days schools have been moving away from using public school teachers [to teach afternoon secular studies classes]. There is no call to arms over this."
He predicted that the issue might be a greater problem for elementary schools run by Agudah or Lubavitch, where there is a greater emphasis on Torah learning and secular studies are taught by part-timers. But he said such yeshivas generally begin their secular studies later in the day.