In Hasidic Enclaves, Failing Private Schools Flush with Public Money (from NYT)

The New York Times published a blazing report, “In Hasidic Enclaves, Failing Private Schools Flush with Public Money,” Read here

The leaders of New York’s Hasidic community have built scores of private schools to educate children in Jewish law, prayer and tradition — and to wall them off from the secular world. Offering little English and math, and virtually no science or history, they drill students relentlessly, sometimes brutally, during hours of religious lessons conducted in Yiddish.

The result, a New York Times investigation has found, is that generations of children have been systematically denied a basic education, trapping many of them in a cycle of joblessness and dependency.

Segregated by gender, the Hasidic system fails most starkly in its more than 100 schools for boys. Spread across Brooklyn and the lower Hudson Valley, the schools turn out thousands of students each year who are unprepared to navigate the outside world, helping to push poverty rates in Hasidic neighborhoods to some of the highest in New York.

Additionally, over the last four years a cluster of Hasidic yeshivas have received $1 billion, that’s right, a one and nine zeros, in public monies.  The schools have ignored state law and regulation, used political clout and threats, and, to continue instruction in Yiddish and Hebrew. Students leave schools illiterate in English and Mathematics and corporal punishment is commonplace. Mayors, Bloomberg, de Blasio and Adams, have refused to act, even worse have knowingly allowed the schools to miseducate and collect enormous sums of unaccountable public dollars.

The Board of Regents, after years of delay, is requiring the yeshivas to undergo a review of their instructional program by an external accreditor, with timelines. The timelines allow an additional two years to complete the process with no sanctions if the schools fail to comply.  See the process here

At a press briefing SED avoided answering if funding would be halted if the schools failed to comply with the new regulations.

We might be at the beginning of a ladder leading to the Supreme Court.

Education is not mentioned in our constitution,

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

And is therefore is reserved to the states.

Fifty states, fifty different departments of education and fifty different sets of regulations.

In 1875 President Grant supported the introduction of a constitutional amendment, the amendment, proposed by Maine House Minority leader Blaine, failed to achieve a 2/3 vote in the Senate, over the years 38 states have added a Blaine Amendment to state constitutions..

No State shall make any law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; and no money raised by taxation in any State for the support of public schools, or derived from any public fund therefore, nor any public lands devoted thereto, shall ever be under the control of any religious sect; nor shall any money so raised or lands so devoted be divided between religious sects or denominations.

The proposed amendment was directed at denying funds to Catholic parochial schools. (Read here) and, Blaine has been an item of contention up until today

The ghost of Blaine is alive and well,

In high-profile 5-4 decision, the majority of the United States Supreme Court ruled on June 30 in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue that Montana’s Supreme Court violated the U.S. Constitution when it struck down a Montana law allowing for tax credits for donations to private religious school scholarships.  In a powerful decision upholding the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause, the Court issued a decision that will surely lead to challenges of similar laws across the country.  As the Court simply put it:  “A State need not subsidize private education. But once a State decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious.”  (Read detailed analysis here

If religious, nonpublic schools fail to comply with a state regulation can the state deny funding to the school?

The current court is far more sympathetic to a first amendment “free exercise” interpretations, and may sustain an appeal; unless the state denies funding to public schools that fail to comply with regulations the state may not deny funds to religious nonpublic schools

In many other nations the state funds religious schools   ; however, the students must take the same exams as in all other schools as swell as teachers having the same requirements and access to unions.

The Board of Regents, faced with an explosive political decision, chose to punt, to push the decision down the road, two, three or more years down the road.

The New York Times story may have legs, it may grow as more former students come forward, and electeds may decide to switch sides, to demand more direct action. 

Just as the Taliban in Afghanistan is not allowing girls to attend school to tie them to a life of servitude the Hasidic schools are also tying students to the past, partitioning them from our world by failing to educate them, abuse of the highest order.

2 responses to “In Hasidic Enclaves, Failing Private Schools Flush with Public Money (from NYT)

  1. “Just as the Taliban in Afghanistan is not allowing girls to attend school to tie them to a life of servitude the Hasidic schools are also tying students to the past, partitioning them from our world by failing to educate them,”

    If the purpose of schooling is to maintain a community, then the Yeshivas are doing a good job. Their students are unprepared to enter the larger, secular, community and must continue to work and live in the Hasidic community. If the purpose of schooling is to prepare citizens to participate in the communal life of the nation, then the Yeshivas are doing the students a great disservice.

    There is a compromise here, providing a basic education in English, Math, Science, History in conformance with State Curricular requirements while teaching Talmud and other Religious subjects, but it is one that will empower young people to choose to leave the Hasidic community and live, as practicing Jews or as secular Americans, in a larger world. The Rabbis are (maybe rightly) afraid of what this compromise would mean both for their communities and for their political power. This is just another attempt to control people, not dissimilar than the far-right’s attempt to ban books, limit the teaching of history, or prevent the teaching of evolution.

    Liberal politicians who allow this abuse of children to continue for fear of losing a voting bloc, are hypocrites and undeserving of the votes of any one committed to true democracy.


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