Today is a monumental day in the fight for a sound basic education in all Yeshivas.
Per orders from State Commissioner of Education Betty Rosa, the New York City Department of Education (DOE) must submit by June 30th, 2023 the completed report of its investigation into the quality of secular education offered at 28 NYC yeshivas. These are a small subset of the many yeshivas across the City whose refusal to provide even a basic secular education flies in the face of both morality and law. Although NY State education law stipulates that private school education must be “at least substantially equivalent” to that of their peers in public schools, far too many yeshivas have refused to obey the law while City and State officials looked the other way.
When YAFFED filed a complaint in July 2015 naming specific yeshivas, the expectation was that the DOE would offer a conclusive report on the quality of secular education in the yeshivas named in the complaint in a timely manner, along with detailed recommendations for those who did not meet the standards of substantial equivalency.
Until today, the city has refused to provide any final details on its investigation.
One reason for the delay is political obstruction – which has occurred over two different mayoral administrations. The obstruction tactic is deeply entrenched in NYC politics as community leaders representing powerful voting blocs influence politicians to act against the best interests of children. It is just wrong for the mayor and other elected officials to overlook the intentional educational neglect of children for their own political gain.
In December 2019, 4 years after the investigation began, Margaret Garnett, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Investigation, and Anastasia Coleman, the Special Commissioner of Investigation for the New York City School District, released a joint statement concluding that “political horse-trading between the Mayor’s and State legislators’ representatives unquestionably occurred”, with Mayor Bill De Blasio’s administration agreeing to deliberately delay an interim report of the DOE’s findings in an attempt to secure support for extending mayoral control of the City’s schools.
As such, the investigation has gone on for 8 years – with the hard deadline of June 30 handed down last January by Commissioner Rosa, the first such hard deadline imposed by State education authorities over the ongoing investigation. Even as the investigation has been wrapping up, NYC Mayor Eric Adams has publicly stated his support for yeshivas – saying that the City’s public school system “needs to be duplicating” the great work of the yeshiva system in a meeting with yeshiva leaders.
A student who was in elementary school at the outset of the investigation would now be in high school. Many of the students will soon be entering the workforce. Most have been deprived of a basic education – making it exceedingly difficult to be self-sufficient. Very few have the language or general knowledge of the modern world to be able to truly navigate life in today’s world.
The City’s delay in delivering a conclusive report on this serious issue of educational neglect represents a significant failure of government. These children represent exactly the kind of vulnerable populations for whom government protections are put into place. They need the power of thoughtful regulators who will deter bad actors.
Students in these 28 yeshivas account for only a small percentage of students attending Hasidic and Haredi yeshivas. For tens of thousands of students across the city and state, the law has not offered them the protection that they are entitled to. It’s time for New York City’s leaders to acknowledge the issue and create a path forward to remedy it – our students deserve better.
DOE, your homework is due, and we look forward to seeing the results of the eight-year investigation.