Being sued by our Catholic School


#1

Has anyone here ever been sued by the catholic school they send their children to?

It is over the tuition, and though we explained to the business manager of the school that we would pay in full as soon as our IRS refund arrives(any day now), he still filed a lawsuit. Now we will be obliged to pay court fees as well. We had made a repeated verbal promise to pay via our refund in December and on 2/6/07. The business manager “doesn’t recall”.

I spoke with the principal, and had no satisfaction. I left a message for the parish priest - who then had the same business manager call me. The priest has not returned my call. Nothing has been resolved.

Is it just me or does this whole thing seem ridiculous?


#2

the bank or accounting firm that oversees the schools financial affairs, or even the diocese, probably has a policy that requires turning past due accounts over to a collection agency after a certain time period has elapsed. Any attempt to negotiate a payment plan should always be in writing, exactly for the reasons you describe, and also should be negotiated only with the person who has authority to make the arrangment, not just a secretary.


#3

Assuming everything was done in good faith I believe Catholic schools should not resort to such heavy handed tactics. They are an obstacle to enrollment.


#4

As a member of my Parish’s school board, I can tell you that parents being delinquent in their payments is a very big problem. Most parish schools operate with very little funds in reserve and yet are still usually willing to be exceedingly flexible in helping parents pay. Unfortunately, every year there are parents who will refuse to pay (particularly if they are pulling their children out of that school. I am suprised though that they resorted to the courts.

Here is a question, is the tuition that is due for the current school year or a previous school year? If it was for a previous year were you at least making an attempt to pay at least a little to the school every month or did you simply assume that you would pay it all off with the tax refund?

Ultimately, as others have pointed out, any alternate payment arrangements should have been written down. This would have avoided some of these problems.


Bill


#5

A good point. Many times parents get dissatisfied and do not pay their tuition as they feel they didn’t get what they signed on for.


#6

Here in Western New York, several Catholic schools are being shut down because the diocese cannot afford to subsidize low-enrollment schools any longer. Even with the large subsidies that the diocese gives, I know that the tuition is extremely necessary to keep these schools able to provide their educational services.

I do understand having financial difficulties and waiting for moneys to come in (boy, do I ever), but I agree with everyone else. ANY TIME that you are attempting to make payment arrangements, ALWAYS do it in writing. I daresay that even within a religious institution, memory can get selective when money is the issue, and you will find that no one will remember your verbal promises to pay.

All of that said, it does sound a little nasty to resort to court action so abruptly.

Good luck and God bless!

Trish


#7

I tend to agree that budgets are probably very tight for the school - if this is like any typical Catholic school. They may be relying on timely payments so that the power etc. is not shut off.

Teachers also need to get paid on time.

While I do understand, and sympathize, it is a difficult to run a business daily. Being responsible to the creditors so that essentials are not turned off.

It’s possible that the school has taken proactive measures because they can only buffer the creditors for so long. Maybe many other parents have unfulfilled promises to pay.

A promise still does not amount to $$$.


#8

I don’t like the phrase “cannot afford to subsidize”.

First off Catholic Elementary Education is an investment made by all the faithful.

Second, the area can afford it. Look around at the new housing, boats, SUV’s, mall parking lots, restaraunts, vacations, etc… It is not an issue of affordability, it is one of priorities and choices.

And it is an issue of 40 years or so of not asking the people in the pews to help, but rather mvoing the schools to atttain self-sufficiency and higher tuitions, which people will not pay.


#9

When I was young my parents paid the school with work. The school understood and did not make an example out of my parents. Everyone else thought my parents we just good deed doers! I know so many people who have their good kids tied up with the wrong people in public schools because they can not afford private education. Everything is so bureaucratic these days! Its a shame!


#10

It does sound ridiculous, but my I ask do you belong to the Parish?
Our Parish School closed down last June and our Parish has, 8 months since the school closed, thousands of dollars in collections over unpaid tuition bills. And that is after our school made a requirement that tuition to either be paid in advance, or payments were to made by direct payments from the bank. That means we had families to agree to this arangement then closed their bank accounts.

I would suggest that you make an appoinment to talk to the pastor and the business manger in person at the same time.

My children are now going to another parish school and we have had some financial difficulties, but the school has been very willing to work with us on some of our financial obligations.

I would guess, no way of knowing, but that the Parish School your children are attending has had a lot trouble with many families over the same issue and they have had to take a (unfortunate) heavy hand over the finances. Tuition does not come close to cover the cost of running a school and despite what many think most Parishes run on a break even budget, we as Catholics on average don’t tithe to one’s ability.

I hope you can solve this and without much more greif.


#11

I have had the pleasure/challenge of being employed by non-profit organizations several times in my life. Unfortunately there does seem to be a mindset that because they are non-profit, and usually “service” organizations, somehow they should be able to conduct their business on a smile and a handshake.

People tend not to take seriously their financial obligations to these organizations, and get offended when/if the organizations press for payment.

but as an employee, who didn’t receive a paycheck when promised, who ended up paying over $300 out of pocket for late fees, insufficient fund fees, returned check fees, cash withdrawl from my credit card fees, due to this…I can tell you that it really does matter that they get their money, as much as it does to any business that employs people and has bills of it’s own to pay. The power company, paper company, etc doesn’t cut the organization slack because they are non-profit.

So, while it is unfortunate that they have to play hardball…sometimes they really have to. I understand that you truly mean to pay, but it can be hard to tell sometimes who is a hard luck case, who really is making plans to pay, and who is just taking advantage…so policies are set up that are simply applied to all, across the board.

I recently quit yet another non-profit job. On the day I handed in my resignation, they owed me in excess of three months pay. Even good hearted, well meaning people simply have bills to pay. Just like you do. Don’t take this personally. It is simply a money matter, tough, but neccessary.

cheddar


#12

Our school does its very best to work with parents, and has a plan to assist in these difficulties. Luckily, we are blessed with a principal who puts EVERYTHING, and I mean, EVERYTHING of import in writing.

However, there are times when it gets to be too much, and some people do not offer their time, talent and treasure. And the bill mounts.

And it is a sad day indeed when the parents are told, “I’m sorry, but your child can’t come to school any more unless we work out an agreement, and you bring in X number of dollars. We will be forwarding his or her records to your local public school on this date.”

I don’t know if the parish office manager uses a collection agency for the uncollected debt.


#13

Well, the good thing is that you live in Texas so they cannot garnish your wages. You need to make good on this as soon as possible. Is there a court date set up yet? As long as you pay the judge would probably not grant a judgement. If you can pay before the court date and then go to the court date and show the judge proof of payment then the case should be dismissed. If you do not pay before the court date the judge will most likely place a judgement on you and a repayment plan will be set up. It is possible for them to freeze your bank account in Texas with your money it it until they are repaid. I only know these things because I am a bill collector here in Texas and each state law is different.


#14

Looks Like I will have to put on my accounting hat now.

If you are getting that much at year end to pay for the tuition, then you should change your withholdings so you don’t get back so much at year end.

If you have discipline problems regarding savings, maybe you could have a portion of your pay check deposited into a separate bank account so that you will use to it to only pay tuition.

Dave Bebyn CPA


#15

Unfortunately, “increased lay involvement” sometimes has negative side effects, like bean-counters who sometimes forget basic principles of Christian charity and morality.

I don’t know if you signed any contract that contained legalese stating that any verbal contracts don’t count. I also would caution that unless the business manager accepted your “offer” or previously made an “offer”, and you have witnesses, it might not stand in court.

Does your (arch)diocese have some type of financial assistance if you are in a hardship circumstance? Is there a (n arch)diocesan school agency/superintendant that you could take the case up with?

Other than that, the only relief you might have would be in “the court of public opinion”, meaning negative publicity for the case, but you would be taking your chances because the public may take the school’s side if your case is not a true hardship case (they also may say to put the children in public schools).


#16

+1

If it wasn’t written down, then it never happened.

DaveBj


#17

It seems to me this is purely an issue of responsibility. If you can not afford to pay the tuition, do not send your kids to Catholic school.


#18

no, sadly it is not, it is an investment made by that small percentage of CAtholics who tithe a reasonable amount, are committed to insuring their parish carries out its purpose for existence, which is the liturgy, sacraments, evangelization and catechesis. 90% of the Catholic faithful resent being asked to pay their share of the pew they sit on, the lights that illuminate the missal the parish has provided for them, and the means to provide the liturgy the missal is about.


#19

Our kid’s school bill is very near the top of the bill pile, so there are many other bills that might get delayed before the school does. I’m sorry, but without more information to go on, my tendency is to side more with the school.

I don’t know if it’ll help, but assuming a collection agency is involved, you might consider sending something directly to the school, NOW. Also, make subsequent payments directly to the school. Often, the collection agency takes a sizable cut of the receipts they collect, plus tack on extra fees for the pleasure of going through them. You pay more, the school gets less and the collectors get the difference. You may be able to pay your tab, without the added burden of extra fees. Also, maybe the school will call off the dogs if they see some kind of effort. I can’t guarantee it’ll work, but in the past, that strategy has worked for me with other debts.


#20

I agree with you. In a perfect world, this would be the scenerio. However, it is not. Priorities are not on funding good Catholic schools for a lot of people; those people are more worried about funding big houses, boats, SUV’s, vacations, etc.

However, that said, I cannot afford to send my daughter to Catholic school. I rent, my husband owns a 13 year old car (mine was sold years ago to pay bills), have no boat and have not been on a vacation in five years. Yet I give all I can to my parish from my pew. So my priority (not my choice) has become filling my daughter’s brain with as much of her faith as I can, hoping it will overcome the secular nonsense pumped into her head in public school.

God bless!

Trish


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