Landmark Detroit Ruling – Students Have a Fundamental Right to Literacy – as Constitutionally Protected!

Students walk outside Detroit’s Pershing High School in 2017. A lawsuit claims the state of Michigan failed to provide the city’s students with the most fundamental of skills: the ability to read.

Court Rules Detroit Students Have Constitutional Right To An Education

In a landmark decision, a federal appeals court has ruled that children have a constitutional right to literacy, dealing a remarkable victory to students.

The ruling comes in response to a lawsuit brought by students of five Detroit schools, claiming that because of deteriorating buildings, teacher shortages and inadequate textbooks, the state of Michigan failed to provide them with the most fundamental of skills: the ability to read.

For decades, civil rights lawyers have tried to help students and families in underfunded schools by arguing that the U.S. Constitution guarantees children at least a basic education. Federal courts have consistently disagreed. Until now.

The ability to read and write is “essential” for a citizen to participate in American democracy, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Thursday. One cannot effectively vote, answer a jury summons, pay taxes or even read a road sign if illiterate, wrote Judge Eric Clay, and so where “a group of children is relegated to a school system that does not provide even a plausible chance to attain literacy, we hold that the Constitution provides them with a remedy.”

 

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Comments to the Presidential Proclamation on Chabad and Education

This was Posted as a Comment – We Are Posting it As a Feature –

NATIONAL EDUCATION AND SHARING DAY, USA

“For members of Chabad, the year is 5781.

This what Brooklyn, NY resident Chaim Levin wrote on Huffington Post about National Education Day in April 2012:

Yesterday was proclaimed “National Education and Sharing Day, USA” in tribute to the late Chabad Lubavitch Rabbi Menachem Schneerson’s birthday. President Obama wrote:

For centuries, the pursuit of knowledge and the cultivation of character have driven American progress and enriched our national life. On Education and Sharing Day, U.S.A., we renew our commitment to these timeless aspirations, and we rededicate ourselves to fostering in our sons and daughters inquiring minds and compassionate hearts.

In a global economy where more than half of new jobs will demand higher education or advanced training, we must do everything we can to equip our children with the tools for success. Their journey begins early, and it demands stewardship from throughout the community — from parents and caregivers who inspire a love of learning to teachers and mentors who guide our children along the path to achievement. Our Nation’s prosperity grows with theirs, and by ensuring every child has access to a world class education, we reach for a brighter future for all Americans...

Reading the President’s proclamation deeply saddened me as I thought about the education I missed out on in the Chabad school Oholei Torah (Educational Institute Oholei Menachem) in Crown Heights. Basic reading, writing, spelling, math, science and history were not part of the curriculum at any of the Chabad schools I attended. My classmates and I did not have access to a world class education.

I have profound respect for the late Rebbe and his legacy. However, I remember very clearly those talks that he gave — the ones we studied every year in elementary school about the unimportance of “secular” (non-religious, formal) education, and the great importance of only studying limmudei kodesh (holy studies). As a result of this attitude, thousands of students were not taught anything other than the Bible throughout our years attending Chabad institutions.

Until this day, Oholei Torah and many other Chabad schools — particularly schools for boys and a few for girls in Crown Heights and in some other places — do not provide basic formal education. It pains me to think of all the the doctors, lawyers and other professionals and leaders that could have come out of these institutions. These institutions have cultivated the character, compassion, cooperation and goodwill the President also speaks of, producing thousands of shluchim (emissaries) for Chabad all over the world. However, that is the goal of such schools; if you do not become an emissary, you fell through the cracks and are not prepared for anything else. The mantra of Oholei Torah, what most people say when asked why they send their kids to such a school is: “That’s what the school wants for their students, and that’s what their parents want; they hope for their kids to become emissaries of the Rebbe.”

The big question remains unanswered though: What happens to all of us whose futures do not involve becoming emissaries? The majority of students do not go on to become emissaries and lack even a basic formal education, and, hence, the brighter future the President refers to is difficult to reach. As I attempt to make up for a lack of education in anything other than the Bible and a language not relevant to the workplace, I have more and more questions about how such a harmfully unbalanced educational system still exists.

Four and half thousand people have become emissaries, a few people have managed to go on to college and a few Chabad schools do include formal non-religious curricula. Many people within the community of Crown Heights still rigorously defend Oholei Torah, excusing the failings of the school by pointing to the “many success stories.” Yet, they fail to notice the largest crowd, those of us who have been ignored, who miss and always will miss the basic education that the President extols.

In honor of National Education and Sharing Day, we should examine whether we are doing everything we can to equip our children for success. Failure to provide basic formal education cripples children within Chabad communities. We cannot ignore the harm done, and I refuse to remain silent. By opening discussion on education, we risk only improving the Chabad community and honoring the Rebbe’s humanitarian legacy as an advocate for youth.

On National Education and Sharing Day, I hope we all reach for a brighter future for everyone and strive for schools that cultivate not only character, compassion, cooperation and goodwill, but basic education and tools for success. As we celebrate Passover and overcoming the chains that held us back, I hope we reflect also on things things that keep us from personal freedom today.”

How Can a $5M STEM Grant Benefit Yeshiva Students Who Are not Taught STEM Subjects? Are they?

Orthodox Yeshivas Claim to Need STEM Funding To Hire STEM Teachers. But, They Do NOT Teach Their Students STEM Subjects.

STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. We are the first to advocate for, if not demand the teaching of STEM subjects to ALL schoolchildren. We believe that it is fundamentally neglectful that children are not raised on a core curricula including STEM subjects. But, dream as we may…

That advocacy is all for naught. Yeshivas do not teach their students science, technology, engineering and math. They do not allow their students on the internet (unless it is Kosher) and they do not by implication teach STEM subjects. They therefore should not be getting money geared toward the hiring of STEM teachers, when that money will inevitably and inherently not be used for that purpose.  It is the same scam as e-rate, which was money intended to be used for computer equipment. It’s an oxymoron, Jumbo Shrimp – so-to-speak.

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Tens of Thousands of NYS Students Denied Education, Sanctioned by NYS

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Thursday, February 10, 2020 
Contact: Liza Dee, ldee@skdknick.com |860.304.2294

 

YAFFED Statement on State Education Department’s Delay of New Private School Regulations

 

Today, the State Department of Education decided to seek another round of stakeholder feedback on regulations that govern the state’s oversight of private school education, including instruction at Orthodox Yeshivas. This adds yet another delay to what has already been an inexcusably long process. The following is a statement from Naftuli Moster, founder and executive director of Young Advocates for Fair Education (YAFFED):

 

“New York State already conducted an extensive public engagement process, met with stakeholders and visited Yeshivas. There is no longer any question tens of thousands of students are being denied a basic education required by law. A recent New York City DOE report found that 26 of 28 Yeshivas investigated are failing to meet the very minimum threshold of substantial equivalency. And it’s safe to say there are more out there. Every day we delay enforcement is another day children aren’t receiving the skills promised to them and their families.  

 

“Earlier today, during the commemoration of Black History Month at the Board of Regents meeting, a Frederick Douglass quote was cited: ‘Some know the value of education by having it. I know its value by not having it.’ It’s astonishing to me, a Hasidic Yeshiva graduate, to hear those words at a Regents meeting surrounded by a dozen Yeshiva lobbyists who are trying to keep tens of thousands of children from receiving the education they are entitled to by law and are granted in our state constitution.”

Couple Sues in Quebec, Canada to Compel Province to Ensure Children are Educated

From The Monte Scoop

Couple in Quebec Sue to Obtain for Others, What They Themselves Were Denied, an Education!

‘They aren’t seeking money. They want a declaratory judgment which, if they win, would force the province to take steps to ensure children who attend private religious schools are taught the provincial curriculum.

Yohanen Lowen, who first launched the legal action, alleges that, when he finished school at 18, he could barely add or subtract, couldn’t read and write in English or French and was left unequipped to find work outside his community.”

Hasidic couple’s lawsuit against Quebec could change what’s taught at religious schools

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NAACP v. East Ramapo, Remove Religion from the Mix, Still Segregation Problem, New Jersey’s Englewood Example

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The Englewood, Englewood Cliffs, Tenafly Example – No Right to Segregated Education.

The East Ramapo battle playing out in the courts is, writ small a discrimination case against a board in its nominating practices. The NAACP is claiming that the Board of Education has rigged the system so private school parents have a disproportionately large number of seats on the public school board. Writ large, however, the battle is ultimately one of segregation, allowing a community of white children to obtain significant funding and school budgeting allotments to the detriment of a largely minority public school system. This has played out before. 

The battle of what happens when you remove white children from a largely minority, people of color and Hispanic/Latino school system has played out in many districts, in many fora. The closest comparison between Rockland County, New York is one to a battle that played out for years, from the early 1980’s to the mid 1990’s just down the Palisades Interstate Parkway in Englewood Cliffs,  New Jersey.

The fact that the white children of Rockland County, New York are ultra-Orthodox is largely irrelevant. The issue is segregation. Is the State of New York prepared to allow a community to be segregated, if not foster that segregation; and is it willing to disenfranchise a public school system of largely minority children to do so? In New Jersey, the Commissioner of Education and the Courts were not:

One need look no further than the United States Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Topeka, [347 U.S. 483, 74 S. Ct. 686, 98 L. Ed. 873 (1954)] to support the ALJ’s reliance upon evidence dealing not only with “material loss,” i.e., reduction in course offering, effect on curriculum, loss of teaching staff, but also an assessment of impact on the psychosocial dimension of education referred to in this case as “symbolic loss.” Notwithstanding the fact that DMHS is not all minority, it is, as previously stated, substantially imbalanced racially; thus, the following passage from the U.S. Supreme Court in Brown has no less bearing in this matter than if DMHS were all minority. It states: Segregation … in public schools has a detrimental effect upon the colored children. The impact is greater when it has the sanction of the law; for the policy of separating the races is usually interpreted as denoting the inferiority of the negro group. A sense of inferiority affects the motivation of a child to learn. Segregation with the sanction of law, therefore, has a tendency to [retard] the educational and mental development of negro children and to *445 deprive them of some of the benefits they would receive in a racial[ly] integrated school system. …. [T]he Commissioner rejects the Cliffs Board’s arguments that attempt to justify severance because DMHS was an inferior educational facility at the time the petition was filed and should not, therefore, be held harmless from that. It is clear from the record that this case has been heavily immersed in an effort to cast DMHS as an inferior school, not worthy of its students. It is equally clear that the record does not support this position.
As to the Tenafly tuition policy, the Commissioner agreed with the ALJ that while it did not violate the law, it is “clearly contrary to public policy … and cannot be allowed to stand”:
Although the policy is, on its face, not discriminatory and although it was not adopted for improper motives, this does not mean that it should be allowed to stand insofar as the Cliffs and Englewood Boards are concerned, for the record has made it abundantly clear that the effect of the policy has been exactly what the ALJ denounces, namely, to exacerbate racial imbalance at DMHS by skimming off and luring students who are eligible to attend DMHS. Thus, in that sense it is “repugnant” and a “beggar-thy-neighbor” policy as it affects DMHS.

To provide a very oversimplified background, for years, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, a largely white and affluent district without its own high school had a sending-receiving relationship with Englewood, New Jersey’s Dwight Morrow High School. Englewood was far more heterogeneous a community with a large majority of the students from families of color, Hispanic/Latino and other ethnic groups. Within a contractual setting, Englewood would receive public school children from the Cliffs with a percentage of the tax money sent to cover the costs per children. Cliffs’ children of high school age who chose to remain in the public school system were bused to Englewood after 8th grade. 

At the time, Alpine, New Jersey’s children were being sent by similar sending/receiving agreement to Tenafly, New Jersey a more homogeneous community with socio-economic ties that had a greater resemblance to Englewood Cliffs’, also mostly white and Asian community. During the early 80’s parents in Englewood Cliffs began, with greater frequency to leave the district before high school, to remove kids to parochial schools or to send them to either Elizabeth Morrow or Dwight Englewood, both private schools. At the time, busing was not provided to private schools; but rather it was arranged within the tuition paid. Busing was, however, provided to public school children who attended Dwight Morrow as part of the public school sending/receiving relationship.

In and around the early 80’s Englewood Cliffs began negotiating a contractual sending/receiving relationship with Tenafly, New Jersey, with the thought that the Cliffs would sever its relationship with Englewood. As a backdrop, Tenafly also began accepting students on a tuition-paid basis to give the Englewood Cliffs’ parents different options.

Englewood fought back, filing a series of actions with the New Jersey Commisioner of Education. All of the actions were based in pertinent part on the resulting reduction in white students, segregation and the detriment to the children of Englewood. To put it simply, Englewood claimed that even though the numbers of Cliffs children who were remaining in public school after the 8th grade were dwindling,  the loss of services to the children of Englewood, the reduction in classes which were at that time very diverse and team sport enrollment outweighed the benefit of the small population wanting only to be more homogeneous. In addition, and particularly relevant, they argued that no one had the “right to segregate” which was effectively what the Cliffs’ parents were doing when sending their kids to Tenafly by tuition. 

The Commissioner stated:

In Booker, the Supreme Court said that “children must learn to respect and live with one another in multi-racial and multi-cultural communities and the earlier they do so the better.” 45 N.J. at 170, 212 *480 A.2d 1. It also declared that the Commissioner has a duty to ensure that such learning occurs in schools that are not de facto segregated and that he must not only eliminate schools that are “entirely or almost entirely Negro,” 45 N.J. at 178, 212 A.2d 1, but must also achieve “the greatest dispersal consistent with sound educational values and procedures.” Id. at 180, 212 A.2d 1. By focusing on Booker’s “multi-racial and multi-cultural” reference instead of the principle of “greatest dispersal”, it seems to us that the State Board recast the expansive holding of Booker as the far more limited holding that achieving some minimal racial and cultural diversity will suffice. In so doing, the State Board eviscerated Booker’s explicit ban on school segregation. If it had taken no further action, we would likely have intervened on this issue, at least to the extent of requiring an explanation of what educational values and procedures the State Board viewed as counter-balancing the need for greatest dispersal. Because of the later developments, it is unnecessary for us to do so.

Even within that backdrop, the State of New Jersey’s Commissioner of Education still dismantled the idea of changing the relationship between Englewood and Englewood Cliffs on the grounds it would only serve to segregate the children and would ultimately come at a high price to Englewood’s children.   

In the early 1990’s the issue again came to light when Englewood decided to close some elementary schools and move 8th grade to the high school. With the Englewood Cliffs Elementary School ending in 8th grade, this created a mismatch. And yet, the Commissioner of Education and the courts were still not moved; and the issue of regionalizing high schools was raised, also not moving the Commissioner.

Cliffs complains that, even if the State Board properly denied its petition for severance, it exceeded its authority in enjoining Tenafly and other non-party school districts from accepting Cliffs’ students on a tuition basis. With respect to Tenafly, Cliffs claims that the State Board’s injunction violated Tenafly’s statutory right to exercise discretion as to which interdistrict students it accepts. It also argues that enjoining the THS tuition program will in no way increase the white student population at DMHS. Cliffs also asserts that the State Board’s injunction denies due process to any school district not joined as a party.
The Commissioner has broad constitutional and legislative powers concerning public education. N.J.S.A. 18A:4-10; Piscataway Tp. Bd. of Educ. v. Burke, supra, 158 N.J. Super. at 441, 386 A.2d 439. These powers must be interpreted sufficiently expansively to correspond with his “high responsibilities” in the education field. Jenkins, supra, 58 N.J. at 504, *474 279 A.2d 619. N.J.S.A. 18A:4-16 concomitantly confers on the State Board all necessary powers “requisite to the performance of its duties.” Clearly, under appropriate circumstances, injunctive relief is a power available to the State Board. Bd. of Educ. of Asbury Park v. Bds. of Educ. of Shore Regional High School District, 1971 S.L.D. 221, aff’d, 1971 S.L.D. 228 (1971). Indeed, Cliffs concedes this theoretical power, arguing instead that the injunction was improvidently granted in this case because an injunction, the so-called “strong arm of equity,” is an extraordinary remedy not justified by the facts. Van Name v. Federal Deposit Ins. Corp., 130 N.J. Eq. 433, 442-43, 23 A.2d 261 (Ch. 1941), aff’d, 132 N.J. Eq. 302, 28 A.2d 210 (E. & A. 1942). We disagree.
Here, we have affirmed the State Board’s determination that the Tenafly tuition policy had a serious negative impact on the racial balance at DMHS. As Tenafly’s non-indigenous population increased, the situation at DMHS worsened. Tenafly not only “lured” and “enticed” Cliffs’ students by its “beggar-thy-neighbor” policy, and in doing so syphoned off a disproportionate number of high achievers, but also attracted white and Asian Englewood students. Given those findings, the effectuation of the State’s constitutional policy in favor of racial balance as a function of the quality of education not only authorized but compelled an injunction against Tenafly. See In re Solid Waste Util. Customer Lists, 106 N.J. 508, 516, 524 A.2d 386 (1987). As to the other school districts (none of which has complained), the State Board’s directive was a necessary adjunct to the injunction against Tenafly. Without the directive, the State Board could not ensure total compliance with the educational goals it sought to achieve. Most importantly, the injunction was a critical element of the State Board’s attempt to remedy the problem at DMHS by using the least intrusive means. Given the history of this case, a laissez faire attitude, without an injunction, would have doomed these means to failure.
*475 VIII
While a sending-receiving relationship is essentially an education services-for-tuition exchange made between two districts, that arrangement does not alter the structural integrity of either district. Regionalization, on the other hand, involves the formation of an entirely new school district governed by a separate board of education. See Jenkins, supra, 58 N.J. at 504-05, 508, 279 A.2d 619. Regional districts can be formed for all purposes or for limited purposes. N.J.S.A. 18A:13-2. Among the “limited purposes” is the organization of a regional district to operate a high school or high schools only. Englewood has petitioned for the creation of a regional high school district including it, Cliffs and Tenafly. The effect of such a regional district here would be to transfer control over DMHS and THS to a regional school board.
The authority for cross-district regionalization arises out of Jenkins where the Supreme Court expanded on the Booker principle of intra-district regionalization:
It is true that Booker dealt with a community which was wholly contained within a single district fixed by municipal lines whereas here the community involves two districts. …. As the Supreme Court pointed out in Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533, [575] 84 S. Ct. 1362, [1388] 12 L. Ed. 2d 506, 535 (1964), political subdivisions of the state whether they be “counties, cities or whatever” are not “sovereign entities” and may readily be bridged when necessary to vindicate federal constitutional rights and policies. See Gomillion v. Lightfoot, 364 U.S. 339, 347, 81 S. Ct. 125, 5 L. Ed. 2d 110, 116 (1960); United States v. State of Texas, 321 F. Supp. 1043, 1050-1058 (E.D.Texas 1970); cf. Jackman, et al. v. Bodine, et al., 55 N.J. 371 [262 A.2d 389] (1970). It seems clear to us that, similarly, governmental subdivisions of the state may readily be bridged when necessary to vindicate state constitutional rights and policies. This does not entail any general departure from the historic home rule principles and practices in our State in the field of education or elsewhere; but it does entail suitable measures of power in our State authorities for fulfillment of the educational and racial policies embodied in our State Constitution and in its implementing legislation. Surely if those policies and the views firmly expressed by this Court in Booker (45 N.J. 161 [212 A.2d 1]) and now reaffirmed are to be at all meaningful, the State Commissioner must have power to cross district lines to avoid “segregation in fact” (Booker, 45 N.J. at 168 [212 A.2d 1]), at least where, as here, there *476 are no impracticalities and the concern is not with multiple communities but with a single community without visible or factually significant internal boundary separations. [Jenkins, 58 N.J. at 500-01, 279 A.2d 619].

The relevant case Englewood Cliffs v. Englewood, 257 N.J. Super 413 (1992) can be found here.

A report on the the NAACP v. East Ramapo Central School Distrrict, 18-3481 (2d Cir. 2019) can be found here.

A News brief one NAACP v. East Ramapo can be found here.

Can Allegedly Demonizing Yeshivas co-Exist with Defending Against Violence?

Comments to Rabbi Avi Shafran’s Opinion in the Jewish Telegraphic Agency

by LM

Below we have republished a portion of an opinion that appeared in the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, written by Rabbi Avi Shafran of Agudath Israel. We would like to thank the person who sent this our way, though we are certain he would not agree with our conclusions. Thankfully, there is a mutual respect for differing opinions. We thank him for that also.

There are a few points that should be made about Shafran’s opinion in JTA. The first is we believe you can criticize over-development and the draining of the public school system for the benefit of private yeshivas (and parochial schools) and still defend against anti-Semitism and resentment. The two are not mutually exclusive. While he refers to the links as “indirect” he spends an inordinate amount of time criticizing efforts to uphold educational standards, presumably albeit indirectly linking criticism to hate.

We take the position that only when these uncomfortable subjects are aired can the differences in perception (that often create resentment) be either resolved or peacefully tabled. One can agree to disagree so long as both sides can be vocal and respectful.  

Second, Safran’s comments about the criticism of the substandard Yeshiva education in many (but not all) Hasidic yeshivas is, in our belief misguided.  Contrary to Shafran’s opinion, a fair indictment of a school system that public money is also partially funding does not detract from defending the religious beliefs that the children who graduate from those yeshivas share. It is simply a criticism of the leadership and the political governmental system that allows the education of these kids to be neglected. If public money is being used to fund these yeshivas, even a single dollar of public tax funds, then they should comply to certain state mandates. To do otherwise is an unfair requirement on all taxpayers; and that does not even address the future tax burdens that stem from inadequate education.

If Shafran’s comments are to be taken to their extreme, then perhaps this country should allow schools for white supremacists, schools for radical Muslims, schools for the Church of Latter Day Saints, Scientologists, and an endless list, all without any oversight guaranteeing that the children have some level of conformity to basic subjects when they graduate. According to Shafran, if applied equally to all faiths, any criticism of any non-conforming schools, whatever the religious belief, is contrary to a peaceful co-existence. That is absurd. Demanding certain standards be met is not indicting an entire religious belief system. Rather, it is holding an educational system to a conforming standard. The United States is based upon a system of equality and laws should be upheld equally. For the yeshiva system in New York, equality has gone out the window.  

  

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