NEW YORK (AP) — Eighteen private Jewish schools run by New York’s powerful Hasidic community have deprived thousands of students of the required secular education in English, math, science and social studies they need to operate successfully outside their religious enclaves, according to findings from an eight-year survey by New York school officials.
The eight-year investigation – which critics say has been long delayed due to politics – found that many religious schools, or yeshivas, were not providing “substantially equivalent instruction” in core subjects like do public schools – as required by state law.
In a letter to at least one school, New York Schools Chancellor David Banks expressed concern that students were not being educated in key subjects ‘enough to prepare them for their future’ .
A review of more than two dozen yeshivas, which receive hundreds of millions in state funding, determined that only seven of those schools complied with state rules.
The investigation was sparked by complaints from a former student who said he had not received the schooling necessary to navigate the outside world.
This prompted a group called Young Advocates for a Fair Education to ask the city’s Department of Education to launch an investigation. City authorities opened his investigation in 2015.
But the investigation has been in spurts as Hasidic leaders have used political muscle to fend off any intrusion into their community, which is centered in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Williamsburg.
Hasidic Jews constitute a movement of Orthodox Judaism. And although New York’s roughly 200,000 Hasidic Jews represent only a fraction of the city’s Jewish population, they have gained considerable influence within the city’s power structure due to the community’s penchant for vote as a whole.
“We hope that the completion of this investigation will compel the city and Mayor Eric Adams to act on behalf of thousands of students who are denied their right to a solid basic education,” said the group’s executive director, Beatrice Weber.
But Weber suggested that some of the schools found to be compliant had not been adequately vetted and that students at those schools “will continue to be denied a basic education.”
Richard Bamberger, spokesman for Parents for Educational And Religious Liberty in Schools, said parents send their children to yeshivas because of the moral and religious approach taken by the schools.
“They will continue to do so no matter how many government lawyers try to insist that yeshiva education is best measured by checklists they devise rather than by the life they lead yeshiva graduates,” he told the New York Daily News.
City school officials said most of the schools visited were cooperative, while a small number of schools were less so.
“For any school found not to be substantially equivalent,” NYC Schools spokesperson Nathaniel Styer said in a statement, “the DOE stands ready to assist the school in becoming substantially equivalent.”
Schools that have failed to provide the necessary instruction must write a remediation plan and have up to two years to implement it.
“Our goal is to educate children, not punish adults,” Styer said.
Because Saturday is a Sabbath day for many Jews, spokespersons for various groups could not be reached.
The findings come amid a push to step up oversight of the state’s 1,800 private and religious schools, following a New York Times investigation published last fall that revealed how students in Hasidic schools have been denied a basic education in crucial subjects.
But the state’s new rules were rolled back by a judge earlier this year after a lawsuit was filed by ultra-Orthodox Jewish schools. The judge ruled that parents cannot be required to remove their children from private schools that do not meet state-designated standards.