The Measles and Another Symbol of an Entrenched Belief in Entitlement and Acting with Impunity

Earlier offender: The measles virus infected 21 students at Williamsburg’s Yeshiva Kehilath Yakov after its educators permitted an unvaccinated, pre-symptomatic kid infected with the virus to attend class. City health officials on Thursday annouced inspectors discovered that leaders of five other neighborhood yeshivas allowed non-vaccinated youngsters in their classrooms amid a growing outbreak of the disease.

Viral violation: More yeshivas defy city orders, allow unvaccinated students in class amid measles outbreak

Department of Health officials on Thursday announced that leaders of five Williamsburg yeshivas violated an emergency order prohibiting non-vaccinated students from attending school amid a growing outbreak of the measles, which already infected at least 21 youngsters at a sixth yeshiva after educators let a sick kid in class.

The city’s chief physician reiterated the importance of inoculating children against the potentially fatal illness, warning that the disease will continue to claim new victims while Kings County youngsters remain unvaccinated.

“As the city’s doctor, and a pediatrician, I am very concerned that children without the measles vaccination are at unnecessary risk for serious, and potentially fatal symptoms related to measles,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot. “The outbreak is not over, and we will continue to see additional cases as long as unvaccinated students are not properly excluded from attending school.”

The five new offending yeshivas include:

• Bnos Square of Williamsburg at 382 Willoughby Ave. between Bedford Avenue and Spencer Street.

• Bnos Chayil at 712 Wythe Ave. between Keap and Hooper streets.

• Bnos Chayil at 345 Hewes St. between S. Fifth Street and Broadway.

• Tuferes Bnos at 585 Marcy Ave. between Myrtle and Vernon avenues.

• Sieche Kinder at 808 Myrtle Ave. between Marcy and Nostrand avenues.

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Do Not Educate Our Children, G-d Forbid They Should Actually Be Doctors, Lawyers, Productive Members of Society

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Protesters: Religious education at yeshivas should remain unchanged


WEST NYACK –Several people from the Orthodox Jewish community in West Nyack protested changes being made to religious education.

Concerned families and school leaders say they don’t want to change how they are educating students at local yeshivas.

“This country was based on freedom of religion and freedom of speech. They’ve had this education for thousands of years. This is why we came out here,” said one protester.

The state Education Department held a training session with all of the school districts in Rockland County at BOCES located on Parrott Road.

School officials say the state spoke about the need to guarantee that private schools are getting substantial equivalency of instruction that are in public schools.

They say it’s to ensure that all students receive the education to which they are entitled.

Clarkstown police say a 36-year-old man from Blooming Grove was arrested during the protest for urinating in public.

 

ADDITIONAL READING:

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.

Brooklyn Yeshivas and Richard Carranza Calling for Scrutiny, Fighting for the Kids

Richard Carranza calls out Brooklyn yeshivas for blocking DOE inspectors

 

Richard Carranza

Let them in — or else.

Four Brooklyn yeshivas are still refusing to let city Department of Education inspectors vet the education they’re providing their students, according to a new letter from schools Chancellor Richard Carranza to state officials.

Carranza asked the state in the letter to broker access for his agents to visit the schools — or deem them in violation of academic standards if the blockade persists.

Critics argue that the religious schools – which have rapidly expanded in recent years – are failing to provide basic academic instruction, thus depriving their graduates.

Carranza’s letter, which was sent Thursday, stated that the schools have wriggled out of 13 separate requests to visit since 2015, telling investigators that their schedules weren’t aligned.

If they are eventually cited for failing to provide proper coursework, the schools could eventually lose public funding.

Violators could also be stripped of accreditation — with attending kids then deemed “truant” and subject to intervention from child-welfare agencies.

“These four schools won’t let us in to determine if their students are getting the education they deserve, despite 13 requests to visit since 2015,” Carranza said in a statement. “We’re asking the State to help us access these schools, and if that’s not possible, to determine that these schools aren’t providing a substantially equivalent education.”

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What Do We Owe the Children, the Yeshiva Debate Rages On…

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FILE – In this Sept. 20, 2013 file photo, children and adults cross a street in front of a school bus in Borough Park, a neighborhood in the Brooklyn borough of New York that is home to many ultra-Orthodox Jewish families. Critics have charged for years that the rudimentary level of secular education at private yeshiva schools serving New York’s Hasidic communities are deficient in teaching science, geography and math to grade school students. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File)ASSOCIATED PRESS

Yeshiva Battle Raises Fundamental Question, “What Do We Owe The Children?”

Understanding what should be the default level of government intervention in a free society isn’t hard. Individuals able to make informed, rational decisions, as long as they do not impose on others by force or fraud, ought to be able to interact without government interference. But children are generally considered incapable of making such decisions about numerous aspects of their lives. Which is why the role of government in education is more complicated than in many other matters, and why a burgeoning battle over yeshivas—Orthodox Jewish schools—in New York cannot be resolved with a simple, “Let the families do what they want.”

At issue is whether some yeshivas are providing children with the educational foundations they need to eventually function as independent adults. Yeshiva graduate Shulem Deen asserted in the New York Times that some yeshivas focus almost exclusively on teaching Hebrew and religion, and furnish little instruction in English or other basic skills. “I know about the cost” of such an education, he wrote, including great difficulty finding employment sufficient to sustain a family.

Yeshiva defenders argue in part that the schools are being smeared. “There are more than 440 yeshivas in New York state, educating 165,000 students,” wrote Rabbis Elya Brudny and Yisroel Reisman in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. “There will always be schools that need to improve and students who can be better served. But underperforming schools are the outliers, and they don’t define the yeshiva system.”

Of particular concern not just to the rabbis, but people running religious schools of various stripes in New York, is a state requirement that private institutions provide an education “substantially equivalent” to that in the public schools. This is where the much deeper, more essential response, grounded in freedom and pluralism, from yeshiva advocates comes in.

“Parents who want to send their children to a school offering a course list devised by the state enroll their children in the local public school,” wrote Brudny and Reisman. “But parents who choose religious education want their children to have a specific moral, ethical and religious framework for life.”

So what is the right balance between children’s need to be equipped for eventual independence, and the freedom of the nation’s wonderfully diverse communities?

The answer is emphatically not to require that private schools furnish the same education as public institutions. Freedom as an adult means little if as a child your mind is engineered to think as the state demands. And there is grave danger to diversity and freedom of thought if government dictates that education cannot be solidly constructed around conceptions of what is good and right outside the mainstream.

The good news for pluralism is that it is difficult to impose a strong curriculum on diverse people. But that is bad news for peace and educational quality. What we see in the history of American public schooling is where there have been diverse views, efforts to standardize have sometimes been met by stiff resistance and painful conflict, conflict that has frequently been evaded by people separating themselves or avoided by providing lowest-common-denominator instruction.

Quite simply, equality, peace, and educational rigor need parental and educator freedom. And yet…

Whether parents or the state are making educational decisions, someone is imposing on a child. We accept this because someone other than the child must make such decisions, but to ultimately be a free person that child must be equipped, by the time they have reached adulthood, to make decisions for him or herself. So the answer to what we owe children cannot end at “whatever parents choose” if what they choose would render a child unable to eventually exercise the liberty to which all are entitled.

The way to ensure the eventual liberty of the child, while protecting freedom and diversity in society, is a system in which educators are free to offer education as they see fit—Orthodox Jewish, Roman Catholic, science-intensive, arts-based, etc.—and parents are free to choose. The only role for the state would be to intervene, were a child not being provided with the skills necessary to become a self-governing adult.

What are those skills? There are grounds to debate the exact lines, but I would submit only literacy—including an ability to write—in English, and numeracy perhaps to the level of basic algebra. The former, because while English is not the country’s official language it is the de facto national language, and the latter because it is a gateway to higher math, though most adults use far less.

State intervention would only occur were there reasonable suspicion a child was not receiving these basic skills. Evidence would be collected, and if sufficient, parents would be charged with neglect. Then only if the parents admitted guilt, or were found guilty in a court of law, would government officials be empowered to intervene in a child’s education.

But what of science, history, and other subjects beyond basic skills?

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Yeshiva Children, Subpar Education? Perhaps in NY There Will be an Answer

Nuftali Moster founded Young Advocates for Fair Education, the group that sued the city’s Department of Education in a push for more secular instruction in yeshivas. Credit: Bryan Thomas for The New York Times

Do Children Get a Subpar Education in Yeshivas? New York Says It Will Finally Find Out

In parts of New York City, there are students who can barely read and write in English and have not been taught that dinosaurs once roamed Earth or that the Civil War occurred.

Some of them are in their last year of high school.

That is the claim made by a group of graduates from ultra-Orthodox Jewish private schools called yeshivas, and they say that startling situation has been commonplace for decades.

Over three years ago, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration opened an investigation into a lack of secular education at yeshivas that serve about 57,000 students in the city, but the probe essentially stalled almost as soon as it began. The reason, advocates say, is the city’s politicians, including the mayor, are fearful of angering the Orthodox Jewish community that represents a crucial voting bloc in major elections.

Then the state stepped in with the most significant action yet in the probe. MaryEllen Elia, the state education commissioner, released updated ruleson Nov. 20 dictating how nonpublic schools like yeshivas are regulated and what students in those schools should learn, with consequences for schools that do not comply.

The guidance could force yeshivas to change how they operate and what they teach. It will also hold Mr. de Blasio’s feet to the fire, as his administration is forced to ramp up its investigation into the schools.

“There’s no time to waste,” said Naftuli Moster, the founder of Young Advocates for Fair Education, which pushes for more secular instruction in yeshivas. “New York City has already been dragging its feet for three years.”

The city’s yeshiva probe began in 2015, after Mr. Moster’s group filed a complaint claiming that scores of students — boys, in particular — graduate from ultra-Orthodox yeshivas unprepared for work or higher education, with little exposure to nonreligious classes like science and history. Instead, some yeshiva graduates say, students spend most school days studying Jewish texts. Younger boys sometimes attend about 90 minutes of nonreligious classes at the end of the day, a city report found.

A coalition of prominent ultra-Orthodox rabbis and community members have accused critics of yeshivas of attacking religious freedoms.

“This is a smear campaign against our community and what it stands for,” said David Niederman, a rabbi and the president of the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg. “If some people are not happy with what they are taught, it is up to them to take action.”

Avi Schick, a lawyer for Parents for Educational and Religious Liberty in Schools, a group formed after the 2015 investigation was opened, said, “The intrusive set of requirements imposed by the state demolishes the wall between church and state that politicians have hid behind for decades.”

This past summer, the organization, known as Pearls, handed out 10,000 posters and bumper stickers emblazoned with the hashtag #ProtectYeshivas to parents of children in Orthodox Jewish schools.

The state’s guidance places the burden of investigating the schools on Mr. de Blasio’s administration.

City officials are now required to visit all nonpublic schools by the end of 2021 — which will coincide with the end of Mr. de Blasio’s second term — and visit each school every five years after that. If officials find that the schools are not providing an education that is “substantially equivalent” to what public schools offer, the city can give schools more time and resources to add secular teaching. If that does not work, the city can withhold some funding it provides private schools.

In an interview, the city schools chancellor, Richard A. Carranza, said that he had requested training for Department of Education employees who will visit the schools, and that he would prioritize visits to a half-dozen yeshivas he claimed have barred city officials from entry. After that, he plans to send staffers to several dozen other yeshivas that were listed on the 2015 complaint as having insufficient secular education.

This is going to be a robust kind of a visit, and a robust looking into all the nonpublic schools,” Mr. Carranza said. “The mayor has made it really clear from Day 1 for me that he wants us to move aggressively and get this taken care of.”

Though complaints about academics have focused on New York City’s yeshivas, the guidance applies to all nonpublic schools in the state, which has raised alarm bells for other groups.

“We remain gravely concerned over the process, which will likely lend itself to an inconsistent and subjective review of many schools,” Jim Cultrara, the director for education at the New York State Catholic Conference, said in an interview.

The mayor’s handling of the yeshiva investigation will now be monitored not only by the state, but also by those concerned about Mr. de Blasio’s recent dismissal of Mark G. Peters, the former Department of Investigations chief.

After he was fired, Mr. Peters confirmed that his department was looking into whether City Hall interfered with the city Education Department’s inquiry into yeshivas in an effort to maintain ties with the Orthodox community. The issue has since been elevated, and there is a question of whether the mayor sought to tamp down probes into his own administration.

Mr. de Blasio’s pick to replace Mr. Peters, Margaret M. Garnett, was already quizzed at a recent City Council hearing about whether she will continue the probe into City Hall’s handling of the yeshiva investigation. She said in an interview with The Times that she would not “tolerate or accept interference” in any queries involving the mayor.

Advocates for more secular education in yeshivas found reason to celebrate last month, when Democrats seized a commanding majority in the New York State Senate.

The Senate flip robbed Senator Simcha Felder, a Brooklyn Democrat, of an enviable swing vote that he used last year to add protections for yeshivas in the 11th hour of state budget negotiations. Young Advocates for Fair Education, Mr. Moster’s group, has sued the state over the so-called Felder amendment, calling it unconstitutional.

Mr. Felder, who represents Orthodox enclaves of Brooklyn, declined to comment.

Still, enormous obstacles remain for those who want the city to shine a spotlight on yeshivas.

Few if any politicians in Albany or downstate are willing to anger the Orthodox political establishment. Urgent problems in the city’s 1,800 public schools — including ballooning student homelessness and entrenched racial segregation — will take precedence over issues in religious schools that the city does not run.

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