Mayor’s Category Conflation is dangerous for all of NYC’s students

Last week, at a fundraiser for the TeachNYS Coalition, a project of the Orthodox Union, New York City Mayor Eric Adams offered praise of yeshiva education system telling the assembled crowd: “We need to be duplicating what you are achieving

In making this comment, the Mayor once again reduced the horrific issue of educational neglect to a simple lie: that yeshivas are exemplars of excellence, even though many of them refuse to teach Math or English. 

TeachNYS is a coalition that represents yeshivas who offer, in most cases, a full secular education. Some of these yeshivas are model institutions for the Jewish community, offering a robust dual-curriculum education and producing alumni who are outstanding in their field. YAFFED applauds their work and commitment to excellence. Yet, there are scores of yeshivas who continue to ignore the law and refuse to teach the basics. The Jewish children in Hasidic and Haredi yeshivas deserve the same commitment to literacy as does every other child in New York. 

So why is the mayor telling an assembled crowd of accredited, and in some cases, academically elite yeshivas: “Instead of us focusing on how do we duplicate the success of improving our children, we attack the yeshivas that are providing a quality education that is embracing our children”? Who, exactly, is “attacking” all yeshivas? Certainly not the City’s ongoing DOE investigation into 28 yeshivas (with only two of them providing a substantially equivalent education), which doesn’t name even one yeshiva represented by the Teach NYS Coalition. The Mayor should stop using NYC’s kids as political pawns in his fundraising and campaigning efforts. Ignoring the problem while offering praise to those who are not part of the problem isn’t going to Get Stuff Done for anyone. 

The 28 yeshivas named in the investigation represent only a tiny fraction of the larger problem – many other yeshivas across NY State also refuse to provide a secular education, and with the Haredi and Hasidic population growing at a rapid rate, yeshiva enrollment will expand too in the coming years. According to a 2020 report by the Avi Chai foundation on Jewish day school enrollment in the US, Hasidic schools in NYC saw a 98% increase from 1998-2018. A sector with this many students and this much growth should not elude oversight. 

Proponents of some of these yeshivas have protested that they’d rather go to jail than participate in accreditation. Mr. Mayor: how should a public school learn from a yeshiva that refuses to even teach English?  

As reported by Yoav Gonen in TheCity, the Adams administration also plans to challenge a court ruling requiring the Department of Education to release some of its evaluations of yeshivas. If the yeshivas’ success is worth duplicating, what is there to hide in his DOE’s evaluation? 

Education activists recognize the Mayor’s failure to prioritize New York City’s students in his budget and policies. His disparaging of his own public school system’s outcomes, to pander to a private school lobbying group, drew the ire of members of the Department of Education’s Panel For Education Policy. 

Conflating the facts to lump failing yeshivas in with successful ones doesn’t do anything to help those who are not receiving an education at all from their Hasidic yeshivas. Cutting resources from public schools isn’t going to improve educational outcomes either. If Mayor Adams intends to improve education in New York City, his track record surely hasn’t shown it. What would help yeshiva students improve their chances at success is for the Mayor to ensure that his Department of Education completes its evaluation of yeshivas who fail to obey the law, and implement the NYSED regulations so that this sector that affects 50K+ students who are experiencing educational neglect can start its remediation as soon as possible. 

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