NY state vote could put pressure on officials over Hasidic schools

New York public officials faced questions on Sunday about their lack of oversight of private Hasidic Jewish schools after The New York Times revealed that schools collect large amounts of government money but deny many students basic education.

One official, Brad Lander, New York City’s curator of reckoning, pointed to the state board of education’s decision this week was supposed to be a potentially pivotal moment for officials who have been in the business for many years. years of non-intervention in schools, called yeshivas. Mr. Lander noted that the state Board of Trustees was scheduled to vote on new rules to keep private schools up to minimum academic standards.

“The government has a oversight responsibility to make sure those public dollars are spent as planned,” said Mr. Lander, whose office is the city’s financial watchdog. “The proposed new state regulations will help clarify the city’s oversight responsibilities.”

Under the proposed regulations, expected to be approved by the state council on Tuesday, Hasidic schools could face a loss of public funding if they are found to be failing to provide children. a basic non-religious education.

The action by the state council comes at a latent time for the Hasidic yeshivas, with critics of the schools demanding that secular studies in the school be strengthened and supporters overwhelming. state offices with hundreds of thousands of letters begging officials to stay away. An investigation by the Times on Sunday found that Hasidic boys’ schools, in particular, were systematically denying about 50,000 children a decent education, an apparent violation of state law. .

While schools typically teach only rudimentary English and math and very little, if any, science or society, they have received more than $1 billion in public funding in the past four years alone. Some use corporal punishment to keep children in line during long days of religious school, The Times reported.

Responding to those findings last week, Mayor Eric Adams through a spokesman said City Hall had restarted its long-delayed investigation into the quality of education in schools. Launched by Mr. Adams’ predecessor, Bill de Blasio, in 2015, that investigation appeared to stall about four years later after the city said in an interim report that only two of the The number 28 medical that they examined is providing an adequate education. Following that statement, the review was shelved during the pandemic.

Nearly three years have passed with little visible action by the city, but Maxwell Young, the mayor’s spokesman, said last week that the city’s investigation “is in its final stages and will be comprehensive and thorough.” dual”.

He said city officials will visit the yeshivas as part of the investigation.

“At the end of the investigation, we report the results to the state, which is the regulator in most cases,” said Young, adding that he could not share details of the ongoing investigation. take place. Mr. Young also said that the mayor believes “corporal punishment is never allowed, under any circumstances.”

When asked about the Times’ findings last week, a spokeswoman for Governor Kathy Hochul noted that the governor does not control the Board.

A spokeswoman for Hazel Crampton-Hays said: “Governor Hochul delivered a record level of school funding in her first budget to invest in students, teachers and educational institutions across the globe. statewide. “While the governor has no authority over the state department of education nor over this regulatory process, she is committed to ensuring every student receives a world-class education.”

After the Times report was published, hundreds of current and former members of the Hasidic community took to online message boards and social media platforms to share their own stories of the shortcomings. of Hasidic schools, with many saying that they found the article to be relevant to their experience. . Others in the community decry it as inaccurate and cite what they describe as potentially triggering attacks against Hasidim.

Even before the paper appeared, Hasidic leaders rallied to defend their approach to education. Representative Simcha Eichenstein, a Hasidic community leader and state legislator from Borough Park, Brooklyn, wrote an opinion article in The New York Sun sharing a summary of The Times’ findings and denounce this report. The sun is owned by Dovid Efunean Orthodox Jewish man said he received no formal secular education after the age of 11also wrote an editorial, as did Hamodia, a Jewish newspaper.

All sections refer to a detailed summary that The Times sent schools to schools a week and a half before publication to solicit their final comments.

“The summary makes it clear that the upcoming Times article will smear an entire community that is sometimes based on anonymous reviewers, curated data, and outright lies,” said Eichenstein, who led a Times reporter on a tour of a Hasidic school wrote. this early year. He added that schools teach reading, writing and arithmetic, and are also imbued with moral values.

Several other news organizations covered the outrage, and Senator Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican, wrote a Twitter post about itprotect schools.

Although Tuesday’s Board vote could mark the first time in decades, state officials have taken action to make it easier to crack down on yeshivas and private schools. otherwise, the proposed rules have been significantly reduced since the state department of education began working on them. four years ago. The state has not outlined clear consequences for schools that do not comply with the requirements for providing basic instruction in English, math, science, and civics, and the rules do not set out the minimum amount of time a school must devote to non-religious instruction.

The rules will apply to all non-public schools, but they will probably have the greatest effect on yeshivas. According to a Times investigation, many schools offer only 90 minutes of reading and math a day, just four days a week.

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