NYC Yeshivas and More than $100M in Public Funds they Collect

NYC yeshivas collect more than $100M a year in public funds

 

 

 

New York City yeshivas collect more than $100 million a year in taxpayer funds — a lot to lose if the religious schools are found to deny students basic instruction in English, math and science.

State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia released new guidelines in November that give her the power to yank funding from yeshivas and other private institutions that fail to provide a “substantially equivalent” education to public schools.

Much is at stake. The city Department of Education gave Jewish day schools $97 million for teachers, books and afternoon busing last fiscal year, the DOE told The Post. But that’s only a partial accounting of the largesse, officials acknowledged.

The yeshivas — like other non-public schools — get millions more for pre-K programs, special-ed, food, child-care, security, technology and record-keeping on immunizations, attendance and state exams.

“If you add all the state and federal funding, it would be at least twice as much,” said Naftuli Moster, the founder of YAFFED, a group seeking enforcement of state standards. It spurred a probe, which has dragged on for 3 ¹/₂ years, of 39 yeshivas accused of skimping on secular education.

The DOE has yet to comply with The Post’s Freedom of Information Law request for funding data on the 39 schools — a request filed 22 months ago.

Four Brooklyn yeshivas, all high schools, have refused to let DOE inspectors inside to review their curricula, Chancellor Richard Carranza has told the state.

“For those yeshivas that refuse inspection, their funding should be shut out of any DOE contract,” said Patrick Sullivan, a former member of the city’s Panel for Educational Policy, which approves school contracts.

Avi Greenstein, leader of a group formed to defend the yeshivas, has said the schools want clarification on the state guidelines. Greenstein did not return messages last week.

Of $84 million in federal aid for academic instruction in non-public schools with low-income kids last year, the DOE funneled $36 million to 103 yeshivas, said DOE spokesman Will Mantell.

The DOE also distributed $7 million in state funds to 201 Jewish schools for books, and $54 million in state and city cash to 133 yeshivas for busing after 4 p.m., Mantell said. He did not give a figure for busing earlier in the day or list all funding for other services.

Some ultra-Orthodox parents have transferred their kids to more progressive yeshivas to give them a better secular education, or they pay for extra tutoring.

“I don’t care about the taxpayers,” one mom told The Post. “I care about having to pay $300 for a math class my 12-year-old son has to take at 6 to 7 p.m. after a long day of Jewish studies.”

Meanwhile, some yeshivas have been accused of ripping off taxpayer funds or have come under FBI investigation. Last March, two former staffers of the Williamsburg-based Central United Talmudical Academy pleaded guilty in Brooklyn federal court to stealing $3.2 million that the state Health Department paid to feed needy kids.

Overall, the city spends at least $255 million a year for non-public schools, including $151 million for transportation, according to Doug Turetsky, a spokesman for the Independent Budget Office.

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YAFFED Lawsuit Tossed but Not on Merits, on Standing

Lawsuit over amendment shielding some Jewish schools tossed

 

NEW YORK (AP) — A federal judge has dismissed an advocacy group’s lawsuit over a New York state lawmaker’s attempt to shield ultra-Orthodox Jewish schools from oversight.

U.S. District Judge Leo Glasser ruled late Wednesday that the group Young Advocates for Fair Education, or YAFFED lacks standing to sue over the so-called Felder amendment.

The group sued Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state education officials in July 2018 over State Sen. Simcha Felder’s amendment that effectively moved oversight of the ultra-Orthodox schools from local school districts to the state.

Members of the group say some of the ultra-Orthodox schools, called yeshivas, provide little or no instruction in secular subjects including English, math, science and social studies. They say some young people leave the schools barely able to read or write in English despite a New York state law that mandates that private schools provide an education substantially equivalent to the public schools.

Under new guidelines on the substantial equivalency rule released by the state education department last November, all private schools including religious schools are supposed to be inspected by local public school authorities every five years.

Glasser implied in his ruling that the new state guidelines might render the group’s lawsuit moot. He said that under the new guidelines, the schools covered by the Felder amendment will be required to comply with “all of the same curriculum and hour requirements applicable to other private schools” and will face additional requirements related to the religious portion of the schools’ curriculum.

Naftuli Moster, the founder of the advocacy group, said he disagreed. “The revised guidelines embody the separate and preferential treatment of ultra-Orthodox yeshivas, regardless of how the leaders of those schools feel about the guidelines,” Moster said in a statement. He said the group will press forward “in reforming the unjust system.”

The pro-yeshiva group Parents for Educational and Religious Liberty in Schools said it applauded Glasser’s decision. “YAFFED’s campaign of harassment of the yeshivas must end,” the group said in a statement.

Palm Tree, NY and Yiddish, Parent Alleges 5th Grader Cannot Speak or Read English and Cannot Perform Math

http://westchester.news12.com/story/39754003/parent-of-yeshiva-student-fifthgrade-son-barely-knows-alphabet-doesnt-speak-english?fbclid=IwAR2UdxKN6oh9Nb-Yct8JqT7hQsxewFDFNiaLwiVpJI111wLHuUA7cCZgbsg

Parent of yeshiva student: Fifth-grade son barely knows alphabet, doesn’t speak English

PALM TREE –

A parent of an Orthodox yeshiva student in Orange County is alleging the school isn’t teaching basic studies like math and English, even though it’s now required by the state.

The Hasidic father asked that his identity be concealed in a News 12 exclusive about the private school system in the ultra-Orthodox community of Palm Tree, formerly known as Kiryas Joel.

The man says his 11-year-old son goes to Yeshiva Sheri Torah on Larkin Drive in Monroe and claims the fifth-grader barely knows the alphabet, doesn’t speak English and can only add and subtract single-digit numbers.

New state Education Department guidelines require that private schools provide an education equivalent to a public school and teach subjects like math, science, English and social studies.

The father claims the yeshiva isn’t. He says when he asked about it, he was told to stop or else his son will be removed from school.

“No one can talk too much because the office of the yeshiva have the power to do what they want,” he says.

News 12 tried going to the yeshiva, and was sent to the administration building where no one was available to comment either.

Just last month, the community’s grand rabbi instructed followers to ignore the new guidelines, threatening to “wage war” against the state.

State officials say local school districts are responsible to enforce the rules. In this case, that would be the Monroe Woodbury School District. The superintendent says promised training and guidance on how to do so has not been given by the state.

Monroe-Woodbury School Superintendent Elsie Rodriguez said in this case, she’d need a formal complaint from the parent in order to investigate.

Yeshiva Education and New Yorkers’ Money – Do you Know Where your Money is Going?

Schools that deprive children of basic skills get millions of taxpayer dollars

 

After years of focus on the major educational deficiencies within many ultra-orthodox or Hasidic schools in New York, the state Education Department in November issued updated guidelines that included clarification on “substantial equivalency” requirements for nonpublic schools.

As these guidelines apply to all private schools, it’s been met with a bit of an uproar. Several politicians have been swift to pander to Agudath Israel—an Orthodox Jewish advocacy organization—and yeshiva leaders by portraying this as an assault on yeshivas and calling on the state to back off.

Schools in the Orthodox Jewish community exist along a spectrum. The Modern Orthodox schools offer a well-rounded Jewish education as well as a robust secular education, by which I mean instruction in English, math, science, history, physical education, etc. Graduates of these Modern Orthodox schools do quite well academically and professionally, and their successes are now being touted as “proof” that the yeshiva system works and is even superior to public schools.

On the other end of the spectrum are the Hasidic schools, particularly boys’ high schools, where the school day is dominated by Judaic studies. Secular studies are either given short shrift or not taught at all. Their students don’t typically graduate with a state-recognized high school diploma.

Unfortunately, an initial misreading of the revised guidelines worried parents of students in well-performing yeshivas that the state would require an unreasonable six to seven hours a day of secular studies. The state then clarified that the distribution of hours from which that estimate was drawn covered a two-year period, which means the actual requirement is around three-and-a-half hours per day.

But Agudath Israel cynically exploited that momentary confusion and rallied the Modern Orthodox to the defense of the ultra-Orthodox and the Hasidic yeshivas—the schools with serious educational deficiencies. Agudath Israel and a Borough Park-Williamsburg group formed in 2016 called Parents for Educational and Religious Liberty in Schools have unfortunately framed this as an attack on the community’s religious beliefs, labeling educational advocates as outsiders set on destroying its way of life.

In fact, the majority of those advocating for educational improvement are former Hasidic students who were never provided a proper education. They care deeply about the Jewish community and about the education and welfare of children.

Portraying the guidelines as an attack on all yeshivas is shortsighted, foolish and dangerous. The education of thousands of children is at stake. One can choose to be misinformed or one can take the time to learn the truth. If the state succumbs to special-interest pressure, the ultimate victims will be more generations of Hasidic children.

New Yorkers should be paying close attention for several reasons. Hasidic schools receive millions of taxpayer dollars. With students emerging without a high school education or even basic English language skills, their career prospects are limited and their families struggle from the start.

A parent’s right to choose to send a child to yeshiva is unquestionable, but there is no parental or communal right to deny children the tools necessary to survive and thrive.

It is no secret that thousands of young Hasidic families, primarily in the communities of Williamsburg, New Square and Kiryas Joel, depend on government aid to survive. Now that their children attend the same or similar schools, we can expect the cycle to continue for another generation.

Advocating for secular education is not about providing abstract information in the classroom. It’s about giving young Jewish men the means through which they can lead dignified lives and support their families, which is a tall order without proper education. They should have the options of joining the workforce and reap opportunities available to all U.S. citizens. Far from being a threat to the community, secular education is the only way to save the community.

Shlomo Noskow is an emergency physician practicing in New York. He is on the board at Yaffed, an organization advocating for improved education in Hasidic schools.

To read the remainder of the article click here.

 

ALL PRIVATE EDUCATION to be Inspected by NYS Dept. of Education

 

The New York State Education Department (NYSED) has issued guidelines under which public school officials would inspect private schools to determine whether the education being provided is satisfactory. This stunning announcement has generated massive pushback from the private school community and promises to be an important test of private school autonomy.

The Guidance

An NYSED press release announcing the policy stated that “local public school officials have the responsibility to ensure that the education received by nonpublic school students is substantially equivalent to that received in district public schools. Substantial equivalency means that a program is comparable in content and educational experience.

According to the new guidelines, “All religious and independent schools will be visited as part of the process.” The reviews are slated to begin during the current school year. Going forward, “Superintendents or designees should plan to re-visit the religious and independent schools in their district on a five-year cycle.

After a public school superintendent or designee visits and reviews a private school for a determination of substantial equivalency, the local public school board will vote on that determination. If the school board votes that a private school is failing to achieve substantial equivalency, “the board will provide a reasonable timeframe (e.g., 30-45 days) for parents or persons in a parental relationship to identify and enroll their children in a different appropriate educational setting.” After that, “the students will be considered truant if they continue to attend that school.

Private School Response

The private school response has been resolute in rejecting the terms of the new policy. In a letter to New York State Commissioner of Education Mary Ellen Elia, the New York State Council of Catholic School Superintendents declared its refusal to submit to the visitations by public school officials: “We write to inform you that the New York State Council of Catholic School Superintendents, representing some 500 Catholic schools, rejects the recently released ‘substantial equivalency’ guidelines and is directing all diocesan Catholic schools not to participate in any review carried out by local public school officials.

Rabbi David Zwiebel, Executive Vice President of Agudath Israel of America and member of the CAPE board, also expressed strong opposition to the new policy: “The notion that our schools have to provide an education that is ‘substantially equivalent’ to that provided in the public schools, as measured by the specific courses offered and the hours required to be devoted to those courses, is patently absurd. Parents who reach deep into their pockets, often at considerable sacrifice, to enroll their children in religious or independent schools do so precisely because they seek an education that is substantially inequivalent to that which is offered in the public schools. Any governmental regulation of how nonpublic schools go about their educational business must be done, if at all, with a light touch — not with the heavy hand New York State has displayed with its new substantial equivalency guidance.

Jim Cultrara, Co-Chairman of the New York State CAPE, offered the following statement in response to the NYSED guidance: “The parents who choose our schools can have great confidence in their academic rigor and while the state has a right to establish minimum basic secular education standards for all schools, the measurement of religious and independent schools’ performance against those standards must be consistent, objective and reflect the right of parents to choose a school that they determine is best suited to educate their children. Giving local public school officials the authority to evaluate and determine whether our schools can operate is simply unacceptable.

National Implications

As an article at Reason.com observed, the new policy gives a private school’s local competitor – the public school board – the power to declare it educationally deficient. “Would anybody trust Microsoft with the power to determine if its competitors should be allowed to exist?” The new policy could be a bellwether for other states and is therefore being watched intently by friends and foes of private education across the country. Keep your eyes open for updates on this situation in future editions of CAPE Outlook.

Religious Organizations Fighting to Keep NYS Out of the Yeshivas vs. Holding All Children to Standards of Education

Not Enough, Say Yeshiva Groups, As NYSED Backpedals On Private School Requirements

Last Wednesday, the New York State Education Department issued clarifications to the lengthy, and sometimes, vague educational guidelines it had released on November 20. For fifth and sixth graders, the guidelines will not require a minimum number of hours studying general subjects like math, English, and history. Only seventh and graders will have an hour requirement – but those will effectively be cut in half, from the original 35 hours a week.

The original regulations were sparked by concerns about the lack of secular education at chassidic boys’ schools, but they apply to every private school in New York state regardless of how well it has educated its students in the past.

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The Council of Catholic School Superintendents made the first move after the original, unclarified guidelines were issued, calling for boycotting the new review system at all of the New York state’s approximately 500 Catholic schools, according to the Albany’s Times Union newspaper.

A December 13th op-ed in the Wall Street Journal authored by Rabbi Elya Brudny, rosh yeshiva at the Mirrer Yeshiva, and Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, rosh yeshiva at Yeshiva Torah Vodaath, placed the blame for the guidelines on criticism from a small group who “appear more interested in undermining parental control of yeshivas than in enhancing their secular studies.” They acknowledged that some yeshivos need improvement, but argued that they “don’t define the yeshiva system.”

By the time the clarifications were announced on December 19, an online petition protesting the November directive had already garnered approximately 50,000 signatures. And when they were issued, yeshiva advocates – rather than celebrating – dug their heels in, noting that the main issue was not the number of hours mandated by NYSED but rather control of private school curricula.

A statement issued by Agudath Israel of America said it considered the clarifications “progress” but argued that giving the state authority to decide which subjects should be taught and for how long – which would potentially cut into the hours of Torah instruction – was “a grave threat to our mesorah.”

A similar statement from Parents for Educational And Religious Liberties in Schools criticized NYSED for formulating requirements without incorporating meaningful input from parents, yeshivos, and others involved in Jewish education, leading to a flawed process that ultimately had the state suffering “the embarrassment of having to walk back requirements it supposedly spent two years developing.”

The Orthodox Union’s Teach NYS released a statement saying it was “extremely concerned about government regulation of the curriculum of religious day schools and yeshivas,” as did the Rabbinical Alliance of America, with executive director Rabbi Mendy Mirocznik slamming NYSED for violating the tenet of separation of church and state “in a most egregious manner, as evident by the draconian guidelines issued by the New York State Department of Education.”

An initiative spearheaded by City Councilman Chaim Deutsch also took on the updated requirements, noting that they could affect nearly half a million students in religious Catholic, Muslim, and Jewish private schools. A letter signed by 28 of the City Council’s 51 members charged NYSED with attempting to turn private schools into “curricular clones” of the public schools, “forcing its way deep into private school practices with this unprecedented incursion.” It blasted the department for refusing to respond to concerns raised by community leaders.

Community leaders have called on the public to continue expressing their dissatisfaction with NYSED’s new policies. A letter released last week by Torah Umesorah signed by Rabbi Brudny, Rabbi Reisman and Rabbi Yaakov Bender, rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva Darchei Torah, urged readers to “keep the pressure up” in the “battle for the heart and soul of our yeshivos.”

 

To read the remainder of the article click here.

 

Yeshiva Education and the Krakowski’s Bait and Switch, Perhaps the Kids Should Have a Voice

Note to our readers: 
We are posting a small piece of an article posted in the Forward, authored by Moshe Krakowski, who claims to have studied Yeshiva education for the better part of 15 years. However, he himself did not attention Yeshiva, as we understand it. He has not suffered what it is like to live outside of the community on the woefully inadequate education provided by many (specifically not all) yeshivas. He also, apparently, did not take the time to speak in depth to those on the side of Yeshiva oversight, but rather took a 3000 foot look at one side of the argument, the benefits of Yeshiva education.
We believe that current public school education is also sorely lacking. Critical thinking found in Yeshivas is missing from most public school curricula. Common core is something of a disaster and our children are far surpassed by the education of children in Europe, Asia and even some countries in South and Central America. But to ignore that children are graduating school in the United States unable to speak English (the language of the country) is unacceptable, even if all else is deemed appropriate. 
What follows is a letter to the editor and a few excerpts from Krakowski’s piece in the forward.

LETTER TO THE EDITOR:

This article is a classic bait and switch. 

The author begins by talking about Yaffed and it’s campaign to fix the woeful secular education in the 39 largest chasidic yeshivas in New York State, but then shifts gears and describes the curriculum of your average non-chasidic yeshiva. This confusion is done intentionally. The fact remains, the 39 chasidic yeshivas identified by Yaffed do not even teach the basics of secular education. Some chasidic yeshivas teach no secular education at all. Even those that do teach a minimum of secular education, barely teach the basics of English and math, which stops altogether after 8th grade. 

While its true that talmud study does teach students critical thinking, but without a proper educational foundation, having critical thinking alone is not helpful. It’s akin to building a beautiful penthouse, without the building’s foundations. Contrary to this authors assertions, chasidic yeshivas students learn neither fractions, algebra, science, history, nor proper English grammar. They do not take the regent exams. They do not receive high school diplomas. It’s unfortunate that this author, who did receive a sound secular education should defend an education system that doesn’t afford its students the same opportunities he was given

 

In the last few years, advocacy groups have criticized yeshivas (Orthodox private schools) in the New York area for offering students a substandard education.

YAFFED (Young Advocates for Fair Education) recently sued New York state, challenging the constitutionality of a recent amendment to an education law directed at these schools, and has argued that their education is not “substantially equivalent” to that in public schools. In the last few weeks, the State Education Department released their own guidance regarding ‘substantial equivalence’ that poses significant challenges to the current Yeshiva curricular structure.

This movement has placed intense public focus on the yeshiva system. Yet these schools’ aims and methods remain poorly understood—even by many of those calling for their reform.

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