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

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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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Murphy’s Law in New Jersey – Lakewood Getting Unexplained $15M While 200 Other Districts Get Funding Slashed…

N.J. wants to send extra $15M to Lakewood for private schoolers. Why didn’t it tell anyone?

When Gov. Phil Murphy proposed his 2020 budget last week it revealed Lakewood School District would get a massive 63 percent hike in state funding, by far the largest of any district in the state.

But what state officials didn’t make clear is that the additional $14.9 million proposed for Lakewood is special treatment for the controversial district that isn’t called for in the state’s school funding formula.

An NJ Advance Media analysis of state data found Murphy’s administration wants to give Lakewood more money than the district technically qualifies for, while slashing funding to nearly 200 other districts. The state pumped extra money into Lakewood’s preliminary funding for special education and transportation without increasing that aid for most other districts. And it proposed giving millions in new taxpayer money to a district long criticized for enormous public costs tied to private school students, primarily in Jewish yeshivas.

As much as the extra money might be necessary in cash-starved Lakewood, which has relied on state loans to buoy its local school budget, the way Murphy’s administration quietly added it to the state’s budget raised concerns.

“The (state) really needs to explain publicly what’s going on here,” said David Sciarra, executive director of the Education Law Center, a nonprofit that closely monitors school funding. “I would hope that the Legislature examines this in detail and gets answers.”

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The Financial Pillaging of School Districts By the Incestuous Relationship Between Private Schools and Public Funds

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Rise Up Ocean County

Yesterday at 8:09 AM

In what has become an annual rite of passage, Lakewood Township School District is once again on bended knee doing their own perverted version of Oliver Twist and asking the state of New Jersey “please sir, may I have some more?”.

Last week the state announced final public school funding levels for all districts and while surrounding communities are losing tens of millions of dollars, Lakewood will receive an additional $15,000,000 for the 2019-2020 school year. But that’s not enough to fund the projected 2019-2020 budget shortfall of $40,000,000 so rather than look at cutting from courtesy busing, reducing the outrageous salary of school board attorney Michael Inzelbuch ($600,000) and finding less costly ways to educate special needs children (think SCHI), the district is asking the state for yet another loan.

When faced with similar circumstances back in 2014-2015 the school district borrowed $4,500,000 from the state. In 2015-2016 that number grew to $6,400,000, in 2016-2017 even higher to $8,500,000 and in 2017-2018 to a whopping $28,000,000. Initially the $28,000,000 was a grant request but the state rejected that because the district refused to provide documentation to support the request. Tonight the board of education meets to consider requesting yet another loan, this time ONLY $16,000,000.

Anyone want to bet a nickel that at some point Senator Bob Singer will request that the state forgive these loans and that request will be granted? If so, please PM us.

At present, Lakewood School District owes the State of New Jersey $46,000,000 and if this new loan is granted that number will be $63,500,000, a new record for school district indebtedness to the state. The district doesn’t actually repay these loans either. Instead of having to write a check, the annual loan repayment is withheld from state aid, $5,800,000/year for the next 12 years. So a district that cries that it does not receive enough state aid borrows money to plug budget gaps and repays that money through…state aid. Follow that?

All of this transpires under the watchful eye of state monitor David Shafter. Shafter, who bills himself as a budget coordinator and financial analyst with expertise in school management on LinkedIn, sits on the finance committee of the Board of Education and is partly responsible for this debacle. The scheme can only move forward with his approval which he has given.

Also on the finance committee is board member Isaac Zlatkin. Zlatkin, you may recall, is a co-defendant in a lawsuit filed against the district by Tobree Mostel who, as an employee of the school district, was responsible for funding for special education children. In her 34 page federal lawsuit, Mostel alleges that she was discriminated against because she tried to expose corruption and is not an orthodox Jew.

The trouble began when Lakewood based On Track Resources LLC was given a contract by the district to oversee special needs placements. Mostel alleges that the On Track gave multiple student evaluations in a short time frame so the company could charge more money, hired evaluators who work for companies that gain financially from special education placements, copying and pasting student service plans instead of individualizing them and coercing parents to waive evaluations of children.

To no one’s surprise, the previous board attorney, Marc Ztoner, labeled Mostel anti-Semitic for objecting to the corruption.

“It appears that if one is not Orthodox Jewish, like the majority of the (Lakewood Board of Education) board members, and is not committed to diverting public school funds to benefit the local religious schools, that individual does not get to remain as an employee in the Lakewood School District,” the lawsuit reads. “It truly begs the question: What is going on in this district?”

At least board member Moshe Newhouse, who accepted the amnesty program offered by the state for cheating the welfare system only days before closing on a $500,000 house, doesn’t sit on the finance committee, so there’s that.

It’s time to fire the state monitor and for the state of New Jersey to seize control of Lakewood School District. Nothing less will do.

View Shafter’s Linked In here
https://www.linkedin.com/in/david-shafter-2a0a413a

Read the Mostel lawsuit article
https://www.app.com/…/lakewood-nj-special-educat…/372255002/

Read the source article for this story here
https://www.app.com/…/lakewood-nj-schools-defic…/3129394002/