Lakewood School District Hijacked by the Ultra-Orthodox – The Kids Are Fighting Back!!

DO YOU WONDER WHY ANTI-SEMITISM EXISTS IN THE WORLD? THE CHILD VICTIMS OF RELIGIOUS FUNDAMENTALISM.

http://www.thelakewoodscoop.com/news/2017/05/breaking-photo-lakewood-high-school-students-take-to-the-streets-in-protest-over-teacher-job-cuts.html

BREAKING VIDEO & PHOTOS: Lakewood High School students take to the streets in protest over teacher job cuts

Lakewood Schools – Religion Trumping Public Education – Where is the Outrage?

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EDITORIAL: Where’s outrage over Lakewood?

http://www.azcentral.com/story/opinion/editorials/2017/04/07/lakewood-orthodox-school-funding/100185464/
When are the officials who are elected to represent all their constituents going to address the funding inequities and unequal treatment of the taxpayers and public schoolchildren in Lakewood? Where have state Sen. Bob Singer, Rep. Chris Smith, Gov. Chris Christie and U.S. Sens. Cory Booker and Bob Menendez been on this issue?

Absolutely nowhere. Thanks to the money and power of the Orthodox community, they have done nothing to address problems that could be easily resolved if they had the courage to speak up and the integrity to represent all of their constituencies equally.

Over the past couple of weeks, readers have been exposed to two more disturbing stories about Lakewood schools. The district faces a $15 million budget deficit, the possible layoffs of more than 100 teachers and deep program cuts. And the director of the School for Children with Hidden Intelligence (SCHI), Rabbi Osher Eisemann, was indicted on theft and money laundering charges involving more than $630,000 in public school funds.

It’s a disgrace — two more in the steady drip, drip of outrages that characterize a school district that has had to squeeze resources and programs to accommodate the ever-expanding needs of the Orthodox community’s private schools.

The sad part is that there is virtually nothing in the works in Trenton to correct any of it. Without vocal, organized pressure from the nonOrthodox community inside Lakewood and in the communities surrounding it, there is no reason to believe things won’t get progressively worse.

MORE: Jackson dorm ban: What the residents are saying

MORE: Letter: Lakewood’s problem isn’t anti-Semitism, it’s growth

Why should anyone who lives outside of Lakewood care? First, everyone should be outraged by the injustice that it is taking place in Lakewood’s predominantly minority public schools. Second, the population pressures in Lakewood could, over time, eventually spill over into neighboring towns — something public officials and growing numbers of residents in those town are becoming increasingly conscious of.

If Singer, Christie and other legislators with the ability to influence what goes on in Lakewood had an interest in righting the wrongs there, here are five things they could do that would help:

•The state school funding formula is a mess. But changes proposed by Christie’s “Fair Funding formula” would likely make matters worse. Those suggested by Democratic Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli would be an improvement, but would not fundamentally address the unique circumstances confronting Lakewood — specifically, the fact that the busing costs to transport 30,000 Orthodox children to private schools and the extraordinary $97,000 per-pupil cost to educate special education students at SCHI in Lakewood absorb about 40 percent of the school district’s $90 million budget.

No other towns in New Jersey have similar public school budget stresses attributable to the prevalence of private schools within their boundaries. Lakewood is a special circumstance. It requires an aid formula that takes the special circumstances into account.

MORE: Lakewood yeshiva enrollment up 20 percent

MORE: Lakewood committee stands from on free trash pickup 

•Offset the undue influence of the Orthodox community on the school board by requiring that a majority of its members have children in the public school system. Right now, the Orthodox members — all of whom send their children to private Orthodox schools — are in the majority, and decisions they make often are at odds with what is best for non-Orthodox public school students.

•Draft courtesy busing legislation that ends the practice in Lakewood of having separate bus runs to private schools for girls and boys, which dramatically increases the courtesy busing tab. Taxpayers should not have to foot the bill for segregated busing. The Legislature also should reconsider the cost benefit of any courtesy busing.

•Require that private schools be certified by the state in order to be eligible for state funding. Unless basic educational, facilities, health and safety standards are being met, the state should not be providing funding assistance.

•Establish specific criteria and spending caps for private special education schools such as SCHI, where the $97,000 per-student cost is far higher than similar private schools. What is the justification? The short answer: There is none. What SCHI says it needs to implement its program, SCHI gets, on the taxpayers’ dime. The indictment of the school’s director should provide extra incentive to make sure money is being spent wisely and for the stated purpose.

At the same time, the state must ensure that the students who are enrolled at SCHI are representative of the community as a whole. Historically, they have been almost exclusively Orthodox. The state needs to ensure that placements there by Lakewood’s child study teams are based entirely on need.

Some of the valid criticisms about the inequities in the school district have been wrongly directed toward state monitor Michael Azzara. There is only so much he can do. He is bound by existing rules and hamstrung by public officials who have shown no inclination to address the problems.

Editorials, letters to the editors and complaints at public meetings aren’t likely to change the trajectory in Lakewood. Putting direct pressure on lawmakers who can change the rules of the game and challenging in court some of the rules that allow the situation to persist offer the only hope for relief — and justice.

Write, email and phone Singer, Smith, Christie, Booker and Menendez, and demand action. Otherwise, expect more of the same — and worse.

 

 

A School for Special Needs Children and a Rabbi without a Conscience – Indefensible

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Lakewood rabbi pleads not guilty to stealing public funds from special needs school

NEW BRUNSWICK — A Lakewood rabbi who runs a school for children with developmental disabilities pleaded not guilty Monday to charges of stealing public funds for personal use.

Osher Eisemann, 60, the founder and director of the School for Children with Hidden Intelligence in Lakewood, is accused of using a private fundraising nonprofit for the school to launder $630,000 in public tuition funds.

He was indicted last month on charges including theft, money laundering, corporate misconduct and misuses of government funds.

Eisemann, through his attorney, pleaded not guilty to all charges before Superior Court Judge Benjamin Bucca in Middlesex County.

Deputy Attorney General Anthony Robinson told Bucca the state has offered a plea deal that would require a prison sentence of five years in exchange for Eisemann admitting to a second-degree charge of theft by unlawful taking. As part of the plea deal, Eisemann would also pay restitution, Robinson said.

Eisemann, of Lakewood, faces up to 15 years in state prison on the charges.

An attorney representing Eisemann, Lee Vartan, declined to comment after the brief court hearing. However, Vartan maintained his client’s innocence in a previous statement given to NJ Advance Media.

“Rabbi Eisemann has never taken any SCHI funds for his personal use, and we strongly deny that there was any ill intent in the use of SCHI funds,” Vartan said in the statement. “We look forward to the complete exoneration of both SCHI and Rabbi Eisemann in this investigation.”

In Lakewood, new scrutiny on ‘business as usual’ | Di Ionno

Schools, zoning, poverty rate pose questions about town powers

SCHI receives $1.8 million a month in public tuition from the Lakewood School District to teach students with special needs. Authorities said Eisemann took $430,000 of that money for a personal business venture, the clothing company TAZ Apparel, LLC.

Authorities said Eisemann also laundered an additional $200,000 of the funds in a scheme “intended to make it appear that he was repaying debts he owed to the school using personal funds.”

SCHI officials previously called the attorney general’s investigation “baseless” and said the school has a long history of providing a “superior level of services to meet the unique needs of severely-disabled, medically fragile, and socially-emotionally challenged children and youth adults.”

An attorney representing SCHI, Robert Rabinowitz, declined to comment after Monday’s arraignment.

Attorney General spokesman Peter Aseltine said the arraignment was held in Middlesex County because three of the districts that send children to SCHI are in the county: Highland Park, Edison and Monroe.

Eisemann is scheduled to be back in court on June 12.

“‘Fraud’ is too nice a word – Lakewood, an Opinion

 

http://www.njspotlight.com/stories/16/10/05/opinion-lakewood-s-ultra-orthodox-day-schools-tyranny-of-the-many/

Opinion: Lakewood’s Ultra-Orthodox Day Schools, ‘Tyranny of the Many’

 

“There’s nothing fraud hates more than a spotlight,” says Tom Gatti, head of the newly incorporated Senior Action Group (SAG) in Lakewood. The fraud he references is an utter lack of compliance with a newly legislated program, Senate Bill 2049, that awards $17 million a year to a private consortium representing Lakewood’s burgeoning sector of 130 ultra-Orthodox Jewish day schools. The bill mandates an oversight committee. None exists. And no governmental entity — the Christie administration, Department of Education, local school board, or bill sponsor Senator Robert Singer (R-Ocean, Monmouth) — seems to care.

So here’s some illumination.

American democracy is complicated. Elections pivot on the preponderance of votes but minorities are afforded protections (codified in the Bill of Rights) in order to avoid, as John Stuart Mill had it, the “tyranny of the majority.” That very tyranny is an apt description of Lakewood’s public education landscape.

The South Jersey city is home to the second-largest population of ultra-Orthodox Jews in America (Brooklyn comes in first) and this population is growing rapidly. The total population of Lakewood is about 60,000 and is projected to rise to 225,000 by 2030, almost entirely fueled by the continued influx of ultra-Orthodox families. Last year the town’s planning and zoning departments approved 10 synagogues, nine yeshivas and 1,175 new residences. Many ultra-Orthodox constituents vote in a bloc, taking instruction from the Vaad, a local council of rabbis. The elected municipal government is dominated by white male Orthodox Jews, as is the school board.

And that school board is in a bind. The budget for Lakewood Public School District, which serves about 5,600 Latino and African-American children, has a $12 million deficit out of an annual operating budget of $127,778,000. The two biggest bites are transportation and special education. Until this year the district paid $18,199,974, mostly to bus 10,000 non-public students on gender-specific buses to 130 different yeshivas. (The other big bite — a mind-boggling $31,485,495 — is annual tuition to private special-education schools, mostly for ultra-Orthodox children who attend Jewish yeshivas that accept children with disabilities.)

According to a recent analysis by Michael Hoban, senior educational consultant to Lakewood U.N.I.T.E (the group that represents Lakewood’s black students), most school districts allocate about 75 percent of annual budgets to student instruction. In Lakewood that allocation shrinks to 48 percent.

Hence, Senator Singer, Lakewood’s white knight, wrote a bill (or the Vaad did, depending upon who you ask) that awards $17 million a year to pay busing costs for yeshiva students, with enough left over for “courtesy busing,” or transportation for students within state walking parameters. (The town council has “pledged” to pay for courtesy busing for public school students.)  The $17 million, according to the bill, is paid directly to a “consortium.”

That consortium, now registered with the state Division of Revenue and Enterprise Services, is an LLC called the “Lakewood Student Transportation Authority (LSTA) and the chairman of the board is Rabbi Yisroel Schenkolewski, who is also the municipal police chaplain, commissioner of the Ocean County Board of Elections, founder of a girls’ yeshiva, and, according to the Jewish paper Haaretz, in an article entitled “Only in America,” wielder of  enormous power within the ultra-Orthodox community.

What about the accountability described in Senate Bill 2049 as an “oversight committee” consisting of five members, four appointed by the commissioner and one appointed by the state monitor or the school board?

According to SAG, Inc., at least three well-qualified residents dutifully filed resumes presenting credentials to all these entities and repeatedly contacted Senator Singer’s office. While there have been occasional responses, no action has been taken.

Certainly, there’s no point in prospective overseers contacting LSTA. According to Ocean City Politics, “The Lakewood Student Transportation Authority still has a nonfunctional public website and phone calls made to it are directed to an automated prompt. No public information has been released about the bids for busing by the agency, unlike local and county governments that publish bid documents on their websites.” (As of publication date, this nonfunctional status is unchanged.)

To date, $17 million of taxpayer money has been sent to an unaccountable consortium. To date, there is no oversight committee as stipulated in state law. To date, Lakewood public school students, 74 percent Latino, 20 percent black, and 86 percent economically disadvantaged, are summarily deprived of access to their constitutionally guaranteed thorough and efficient system of education.

Now, let’s be fair. Nonpublic school students are entitled to transportation within state parameters (although gender-specific, yeshiva-specific buses are a murky area). The district is underfunded because of New Jersey’s broken and unsustainable school funding-formula.  But the state Legislature just handed over $17 million a year to an unaccountable group of powerbrokers (regardless of who is responsible for implementation of the Senate bill) and called it square. This disdain for rectitude and law perpetuates the inequities — indeed, the tyranny — visited upon the minority children who attend Lakewood Public Schools. “Fraud” is too nice a word.

Another Rockland County Debacle – Overdevelopment and a Comparison to Provident Park Stadium

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PROVIDENT PARK STADIUM – RENAMED PALISADES CREDIT UNION PARK, AND HOME OF THE ROCKLAND BOULDERS –  ROCKLANDERS ARE NOT HAPPY ABOUT SIMILAR PROSPECTS

For many people living in Rockland County, the great tragedy of Provident Park, home of the Rockland Boulders, is not only the alleged misappropriation of funds by Christopher St. Lawrence, assisted by Aaron Troodler (https://www.google.com/search?q=chrisopher+st.+lawrence&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8), which fostered the building of that stadium. Both St. Lawrence and Troodler were charged with upwards of 22 counts of fraud, wire fraud and other charges.

It is also the tragic loss of Matterhorn Nurseries which is now partially developed into housing, most ultra-Orthodox and Orthodox communities.

Christopher St. Lawrence, according to Rockland County residents is, has been and will always be in the pockets of the ultra-Orthodox community. He cares little about the public schools, the over-development and the ramifications for an entire community because he has been well compensated. The fact that the ultra-Orthodox  intent upon over-development, siphoning funds from public education to private yeshivas and utilizing taxpayer money to fund their very existence, is of little relevance when they vote in droves to support him as Town Supervisor. From our view, Lawrence, Troodler, and others belong behind bars.  

From the opinion of some living in Rockland County, it is difficult to believe that the owners of the Boulders knew nothing about the unsavory way in which the stadium was funded, the misappropriation of funds out of the pockets of taxpayers and the destruction of the Horn family’s iconic nursery. It is hard to tell whether they, like St. Lawrence were in the pockets of the ultra-Orthodox community and whether the building of the stadium was their share of the pie.

The opinion piece posted below, comments to the contention that mega-development in Rockland County is not Orthodox-only. He compares a Route 59 development plan to the “Provident Park debacle.”  If the owners of the Boulders knew of the misappropriation of funds and participated in some form or another, then the comparison is correct but the conclusion is wrong. It would not be “Orthodox-only.”

We leave you to ponder….

 

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Monsey development plans unrealistic: View

http://www.lohud.com/story/opinion/contributors/2016/08/24/monsey-development-plans-unrealistic-view/89253294/

Re “Monsey mega-developer: Don’t assume it’s Orthodox-only,” Aug. 11 article:

I can’t believe such a project would be considered for the proposed site. Then I remembered, it’s Ramapo and history shows that anything the community’s wealthy developers want, they get, regardless of costs and consequences to town residents.

The article includes photos of nice drawings of a large, New York City-style urban development with trees and landscaping, and even a few cars. Not surprisingly, they don’t show Route 59.

The drawings and the details of the plan are pure fantasy and a public deception. Six days a week, that location is already a dangerous traffic choke-point on Route 59.

The plan boasts more than 600 parking spaces and, like all such plans proposed in Ramapo, it will undoubtedly fall far short of the actual need in favor of money-making apartment space.

Regardless, the spots represent at least that many additional vehicles in the area. Shoppers visiting the ground-level stores will bring even more vehicles.

PROPOSAL: Ramapo developer proposes 600 units off Route 59

The hundreds of housing units represent thousands of children (if not now, in the near future). That requires more than 100 school buses each transporting children back and forth several times each day.

Additionally, there will be the taxis, delivery vehicles, sanitation vehicles, service vehicles, medical transport vehicles, etc. trying to move through the impossibly congested area. It will be interesting to see a fire truck or ambulance navigate the area in response to a call for help.

How can this possibly work? To begin to even try to make such a plan work will require incredibly expensive and massive capital improvements to the area’s infrastructure, including water, sewers, utilities and roads.

What about the environmental costs? What about public and park spaces for the many, many people who would reside there?

What portion of the astronomical financial cost will the wealthy developers be required to pay?

I think that the taxpayers of Ramapo and Rockland are looking at another Provident Stadium debacle. I’m still paying for a stadium I didn’t want, and I don’t want to pay for a nonsensical project that will further enrich the community’s already wealthy and politically powerful developers.

As for the title of the article, “Builder: It’s not orthodox-only,” I don’t believe it for a minute.

to read this article and similar ones click here.

 

Yeshivas and Substandard Education

 

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Some Hasidic Yeshiva leaders and their PR and lobbyist representatives often argue that they don’t have enough funding to provide their students with a secular education.

Many uninformed taxpayers fall for this.
In reality, millions, if not hundreds of millions, of tax dollars are already being poured into these very schools that often don’t even meet the funding criteria or misuse the funding.*

Additionally, Yeshivas receive hundreds of thousands, if not millions, in TAX-DEDUCTIBLE contributions from wealthy individuals, often oblivious to the fact that the children attending those schools are being denied an education.

DISCLAIMER: THESE GRAPHS ARE ROUGH ESTIMATES**. It’s extremely difficult to figure out specifically how much money Yeshivas get from various sources, or how much of their revenue comes from federal, state, and local government programs. (This reflects a serious lack of transparency on their part and on the part of the various government agencies.)

For that we turn to you and ask that you help us paint a more complete picture of the Yeshiva funding, so that we can properly include it in our discussions.
Do you work at a Yeshiva or at an agency that funnels money to non-public schools, or have experience working the books at any private school?

If yes, please email us with whatever info you have at Staff@yaffed.org

http://yaffed.nationbuilder.com/why_don_t_yeshivas_provide_a_better_education

Why Don’t Yeshivas Provide a Better Education?

Defining Education – Balancing Interests

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FROM THE ASBURY PARK PRESS:

http://www.app.com/story/opinion/columnists/2016/08/16/school-definition-law-nj/88863180/

ROBISON: How, exactly, should a ‘school’ be defined?

The complex world in which we live demands clarity in the definitions that are used, and, proper application of those definitions during the decision making process. One such case is the question of exactly what constitutes a school.

The importance of this issue is readily apparent in Lakewood, where there are now over 125 nonpublic schools, and land use laws that permit a school to placed just about anywhere. Less than one-third are listed on the New Jersey Department of Education website as a recognized or accredited school.

However, the importance of clear definitions that are properly used is pertinent to every municipality and school district. The impact of poor definitions, or disregard for clearly established definitions, on the local planning process and the taxpayers’ burden is significant.

The crux of the issue pertaining to schools is captured in the question: Does an entity that provides any form of education automatically qualify as a school or must that entity meet standards that have been developed by the state Department of Education, various statutes and subsequent court decisions?

There is a fundamental difference between a religious education center and a school. While the former is an absolutely essential element in our society, where freedom of religion and separation of church and state are cornerstones of a functioning democracy, such centers should not automatically qualify for various forms of support such as the busing of students or other state and local aid.

The religious education that occurs must be in addition to, and not in place of, the basic education that is required to be provided by a school before public support of any kind is provided. Dare I say a “thorough and efficient” education must be provided?

We must also constructively differentiate between vocational education and religious education at the secondary level. Entities such as the Ocean and Monmouth County Vocational School Districts do provide career training but they also provide basic academic training in-house or in concert with a local school district. These districts meet the compulsory education requirements.

In comparison, I submit that meeting the requirements of ordination in just about every faith requires study above and beyond the secondary level at an accredited university such as Beth Madresh Govoha or Princeton Seminary. Religious education at the secondary level and beyond, which is the choice of the student or parent, is above and beyond the compulsory education requirements established in New Jersey.

Similarly, if an applicant to a local zoning board of adjustment incorrectly defines a religious education center as a school, then the special privileges and considerations afforded to an inherently beneficial use should not apply.

The value of being treated as an inherently beneficial use must not be underestimated. It is significant. Depending on the specific wording of the local planning and zoning ordinance(s) an inherently beneficial use provides an opportunity for exceptions to established zoning standards without having to outline the positive and negative criteria that may result from the proposed project.

Zoning requirements play a major role in establishing the character of a neighborhood not to mention the market value of the land and improvements in that neighborhood. The burden of proof must rest with the entity claiming to be a school in order to be treated as an inherently beneficial use before a local zoning board.

Defining an entity as a school for either public funding or treatment as an inherently beneficial use does not create an undue burden. For example, in the case of secondary school-age children does an entity claiming to be a school issue a diploma that is sanctioned or recognized by the state? For both secondary and elementary age school children is there a curriculum that is actually implemented by a state approved teaching staff that provides basic instruction that will allow a child to advance academically and grow into a contributing member of society?

Every school board and municipal governing body has an excruciatingly difficult challenge when it comes to balancing the need to provide public services with the need to minimize tax rates. This job should not be made more difficult through imprecise definitions that lead to questionable allocations of public monies or inappropriate decisions affecting local development, which in turn generate a greater burden on municipal and school service delivery.

Frederick W. (Rob) Robison is a former borough administrator in Roselle and Atlantic Highlands. He lives in Lakewood.