If a School Takes Public Money it Should Be Required to Pass Public Education Standards, at Least

Learn your lesson: Every school needs to pass muster from the government experts

Let the state in to check. (Roca, John)

Learn your lesson: Every school needs to pass muster from the government experts

Some of the toniest private schools in New York, places that deliver an exemplary secular education to their kids, are going to war against new state regulations arm in arm with a small subset of ultra-Orthodox yeshivas that are failing to teach their kids English, math, science and other core subjects. For shame.

Back in May, the state Education Department issued new proposed rules to ensure that non-public schools live up to the legal obligation to deliver a “substantially equivalent” education to their students. That’s long been the guarantee under law; where the rubber meets the reading, writing and ‘rithmetic, there’s been virtually no enforcement.

And for years, a small sliver of religious schools in the Hasidic community — not all Jewish schools by any stretch, and not all Hasidic ones either — have been neglecting to teach kids the basics, despite pocketing millions in public money.

This must end. The only way to make it end is to step up state oversight, which means starting periodic and unobtrusive visits to all non-public schools. It’s just not constitutional for the state to single out Jewish K-12 institutions for scrutiny .

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Education in New York – Taxpayer Subsidizing Yeshiva Education Without Standards – PEARLS Statement

PEARLS: Statement on New Education Department’s Proposed Regulations

As the New York Department of Education continues to attempt to establish and enforce guidelines for private schools, PEARLS, which advocates for Frum Schools in NY has released the following statement:

The regulations proposed by the State Education Department disregard the concerns expressed by more than 1,000 private schools from every segment of the nonpublic school community.

The proposed regulations disregard the long history of success demonstrated by private schools across New York State, they undermine the choices made by parents who choose private schools for their children, and they substitute the education bureaucracy in Albany for the private school leadership sought by parents and students.

The regulations proposed today are nothing more than a repackaging of the guidelines that were opposed by the entire private school community last Fall and declared null and void by the Albany Supreme Court this Spring. It is disappointing that the State Education Department failed to engage in dialogue with private school leaders prior to issuing these proposed regulations.

We remain willing to work collaboratively with the State Education Department. But we will continue to oppose SED’s attempt to impose top-down mandates on hundreds of thousands of private school children across the State. These proposed regulations will not be any more successful than the failed and rejected guidelines they replaced. We therefore urge SED to work with the private school community in a manner that respects the success, autonomy, history and purpose of private schools.

The recreation of Jewish life and learning in the United States after the destruction of the Holocaust was nothing short of miraculous. In 1944, there were two dozen Jewish schools in New York, with no more than 5000 students. Today, there are 165,000 students enrolled in more than 400 Jewish elementary and high schools in New York. State regulations cannot be allowed to hinder our mission or hamper our growth.

 

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Substantial Equivalency in New York for Yeshiva Students – Naftuli Moster YAFFED [podcast]

CAPITOL PRESSROOM

June 4, 2019: Non-public school guidelines

The fight for substantial equivalency for non-public schools made its way to the Board of Regents meeting in Albany this week. Naftuli Moster, Executive Director of Young Advocates for Fair Education, discussed what he hopes to see the State do next to ensure substantial equivalency.

Yeshiva Education and Substantial Equivalency – Why not Meet Requirements or Forego Funding?

State education chief unveils retooled ‘substantial equivalency’ rules for private schools

Nancy Cutler, Rockland/Westchester Journal NewsPublished 3:33 p.m. ET May 31, 2019

State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia speaks with The Journal News Staff in White Plains March 18, 2019. Carucha L. Meuse, cmeuse@lohud.com

The New York State Education Department announced proposed regulations Friday for academic instruction at nonpublic schools, less than two months after its guidelines with similar goals were blocked by the State Supreme Court.

The issue focuses on enforcing state law requiring that secular studies at private schools — like math science, English and history — be “substantially equivalent” to what’s taught in public schools. Concern has been most focused on certain ultra-Orthodox and Hasidic Jewish yeshivas that advocates have reported fail to meet the law or prepare their students for employment and a solid economic future.

State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia initially issued new guidelines in November that were meant to update previously issued regulations for enforcing the law. But the court ruled in April that the Education Department failed to follow its own procedure for such specific changes.

The Education Department is classifying the effort as a change to regulations, not just guidelines. The path to new regulations includes a public comment period — lacking in the original process.

“Nonpublic schools are an important part of the educational landscape in New York State,” Elia said in a statement. “With the regulations, we will ensure that all students — no matter which school they attend — have the benefit of receiving the education state law says they must have. By following the State Administrative Procedure Act process, we are addressing the Court’s concerns.”

Some advocates had been pushing the state to adopt emergency regulations to enforce the “substantial equivalency” law, rather than launching a lengthier process. Naftuli Moster, the founder and executive director of Young Advocates for Fair Education, or YAFFED, said in a statement that the state was playing into the hands of groups that resist oversight of yeshivas.

“Instead of acting quickly to implement emergency regulations, NYSED has chosen a lengthy process which all but guarantees that in the 2019-2020 school year, tens of thousands of children will continue to be denied the education to which they are entitled by law,” the New City resident said.

Yeshiva education activist Naftuli Moster, who has been the topic of a lot of criticism and praise for his work with YAFFED, a nonprofit that’s pushing the state to ensure secular education is provided in yeshivas, discussed his work outside Rockland County Court House June 12, 2018 in New City. (Photo: Tania Savayan/The Journal News)

Also at issue is the state’s plan to allow inspections by the public school district to take place by the end of the 2022-2023 academic year. “That’s like saying ‘when you get around to it, but no rush,’ ” YAFFED responded.

The education equivalency issue mostly impacts New York City and the East Ramapo school district, which has scores of yeshivas in their boundaries.

Rockland Legislator Aron Wieder, D-Spring Valley, has been a strong critic of such oversight. Wieder, who is Hasidic, represents parts of Spring Valley. He has asserted that Elia “has bought into the narrative that is being peddled by people who have left the Orthodox community and only have hatred towards our community.”

The issue has caused much attention in New York politics. In 2018, the state budget was nearly derailed when Sen. Simcha Felder, D-Brooklyn, demanded language be inserted into the budget that would influence the way the state considered curriculum at certain yeshivas.

The proposed regulations more specifically spell out the ability for a private school to challenge the enforcement process in an effort to include “due process.” The guidelines also allow “for integrated curriculum that delivers content by incorporating more than one subject into the content of a course.”

The proposed regulations drop references to state learning standards; rather, the guidance language will focus on instruction in subject areas required by law.

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Yeshivas and No Secular Studies, the Tragedy for Jews and Democracy

The Forward - News that Matters to American Jews

Originally published in The Forward.

Susan Lerner and Esther Fuchs

May 29, 2019

Yeshivas Aren’t Teaching Secular Studies. It’s A Shonda For The Jews And Democracy.

Over generations, no matter their religious practice, Jews have shared a commitment to educating their children. In New York, the government has set the standards for that education and taken the legal responsibility to ensure that every child in every school, whether public, private or religious, receives an education that meets those standards. And yet, we find ourselves in an extraordinary situation, where rabbis in some of our most vulnerable communities have chosen to deny children the secular education they are entitled to and relegate them to a life of poverty and dependency. It is even more disheartening that our elected officials have chosen to be complicit in this disgrace.

For decades, yeshivas have received millions — if not hundreds of millions — of tax dollars from New York State lawmakers for transportation, security, lunch, textbooks, and even academic intervention services. Some yeshivas cover as much as two-thirds of their budget with public funds

Yet, we have little to no accountability for that money, even as certain Ultra-Orthodox leaders openly flout state law which requires all nonpublic schools to provide an education that is “at least substantially equivalent” to public schools. That’s because lawmakers have historically prioritized politically powerful voting blocks ahead of student wellbeing, and they’re doing it on our dime.

The fact is we have no idea if these schools are even in compliance with state educational requirements to teach secular studies, but we have reason to suspect that they’re not. According to a report commissioned by Young Advocates for Fair Education (YAFFED) in 2017, Hasidic boys receive only 90 minute or less of secular instruction a day in elementary school, and none in high school. This leaves them unable to read and write in English, perform basic math, or understand the science behind vaccines.

It’s an ongoing crisis, but despite recent efforts by the New York State Education Department (NYSED) to implement very basic oversight, these Ultra-Orthodox leaders are fighting to keep our children in the dark ages. Pilpul and gematria are simply not a substitute for writing a clear English sentence and understanding basic math concepts.

 

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Religion v. Education and the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish Community

Battle Over Role of Religion in Schools Plays Out in Ultra-Orthodox Jewish Community

 

Ultra-orthodox Jews in BrooklynUltra-orthodox Jews in Brooklyn, September 14, 2007. (Photo: diluvi, Flickr)

(The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not reflect the views of Citizen Truth.)

“Some people leave precisely because they have been deprived of an education, and they feel betrayed.”

As public school education has become increasingly secular over the years, private religious schools have pushed back by focusing their curricula on more intense religious studies, often at the expense of instruction in secular subjects.

While the role of religion in schools has been a controversial topic since the early days of the American education system, the divide over the role of religion in education seems to be widening. One of the most obvious examples of the conflict can be seen in the educational institutions of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, where instruction in secular subjects is almost non-existent.

Schools that Don’t Educate

According to activists Citizen Truth spoke with, students at some of these ultra-orthodox educational institutions don’t even know that dinosaurs once walked the earth, or that one of the bloodiest wars in human history occurred as a result of the battle over slavery.

This knowledge is essential to be a rational, reasonable member of modern American society, which is what education in the United States is supposed to prepare its youth for. By denying these aspects of education to their students, ultra-Orthodox schools and other conservative religious institutions are not only doing these children a disservice; they are declaring war on modernity and reason.

Ultra-orthodox Jews are also known as Haredi, which can also be translated from Hebrew as “anxious.” This extremely conservative sect of Judaism is characterized by its anxiety towards the outside, non-Jewish world: fear of assimilation, doubt regarding scientific principles and complete trust in the religious leader of one’s specific community, known as a rebbe.

Throughout this article, the words ultra-orthodox and Haredi will be used interchangeably. However, remember that the majority of ultra-Orthodox Jews in the United States belong to Hasidic sects, which is an even more conservative group of communities within the larger Haredi community. All Hasidic Jews are part of the larger Haredi movement, but not all Haredi Jews belong to Hasidic communities.

Advocating for Fair Education

One of the groups leading the fight in support of better educational practices in Haredi religious institutions is Young Advocates for Fair Education (YAFFED), whose executive director is Naftuli Moster.

Moster was educated in an all-male Haredi school or yeshiva in Borough Park, Brooklyn, which is one of the epicenters of ultra-orthodox culture in the city. He decided to start YAFFED after realizing how incomplete the education he and his friends had received at yeshivas and other ultra-orthodox schools actually was.

Yeshiva in Brooklyn, NY. Photo: [mementosis} via Flickr.

Moster is quick to point out that “receiving a Judaic education has its benefits. It’s not like lying in bed and doing absolutely nothing. But it’s no substitute for a secular education that includes English, math, science, and social studies.” Religious instruction may have its benefits, but only if it is properly integrated into a curriculum that also includes subjects like science, math and history.

YAFFED, PEARLS and a Battle Over Education

YAFFED recently released a 90-page report entitled Non-Equivalent: The State of Education in New York City’s Hasidic Yeshivas which gave a detailed account of the amount of time spent on secular studies in ultra-Orthodox schools. The report also provided comprehensive data on the government funding that yeshivas receive and included recommendations from the New York City Department of Education and the New York Department of Education.

YAFFED and other concerned groups have made repeated attempts to remedy the massive problems existing in religious educational institutions in New York. But the attempts at legislation by the New York State Education at YAFFED’s behest have been met with strong legal and political opposition, and as a result, have failed.

At the forefront of the opposition to YAFFED and similar groups is a group called Parents for Educational and Religious Liberty in Schools, or PEARLS. Though the name makes allusions to freedom in education, it’s essentially a pro-Yeshiva organization created to oppose YAFFED and stop any government initiatives to improve education in ultra-Orthodox schools. To date, they have spent nearly one million dollars in their effort to prevent students at Hasidic schools from having access to secular knowledge.

PEARLS has friends in high places. The public relations firm who represents the group is Global Strategy Group, one of the most sought-after public relations firms in politics. They have assisted many prominent American politicians, including former New York governor Elliot Spitzer and current governor Andrew Cuomo. One of the leaders of PEARLS, Rabbi Isaac Sofer, is also a former fundraiser for current New York mayor Bill de Blasio. Given that Cuomo and de Blasio are some of the most prominent politicians charged with regulating the educational practices at Haredi institutions, this cozy relationship should be at least somewhat troubling.

Ultra-Orthodox Community’s Political Clout

Yeshivas are male-only education institutions, and since the intended goal of a yeshiva education is to become a rabbi, these schools offer less secular instruction than their female-only counterparts. As a result, girls educated at ultra-Orthodox schools tend to have an easier time as they transition to adulthood and attend college or join the workforce.

Moster also points out that these girls are no less Jewish or Orthodox than their male peers. He explained to Citizen Truth that “this goes to show that you can provide a full Judaic and secular education without compromising one or the other.”

 

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