Press Releases

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

Lynsey Billet, lynsey@anatgerstein.com, (347) 361-8449

Sydney Brown, sydney@anatgerstein.com, (347) 831-1415

Sophie Crumpacker, sophie@anatgerstein.com, (347) 361-7128

 

YAFFED Statement on New York State Education Department’s Decision to Scrap Proposed Substantial Equivalency Regulations

 

(New York, NY)—Today the New York State Education Department (NYSED) released a report outlining stakeholder feedback on substantial equivalency in New York’s nonpublic schools and announced that the department will release revised regulations in the summer or fall of 2021. This decision will delay the implementation of regulations that would protect New York’s students until at least 2022. 

New York state law requires that nonpublic schools provide an education that is “substantially equivalent” to that offered by public schools. Regulations would allow the state to enforce this long-existing standard. Lack of enforcement results in thousands of ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students missing out on a basic education in topics like English, math, science, and history.  Advocacy organization YAFFED has worked for years to improve secular education in New York’s ultra-Orthodox yeshivas and is a vocal supporter of regulations that would help increase accountability of these schools. 

Naftuli Moster, founder and executive director of YAFFED, issued the following statement:

“NYSED has made educational equity a stated priority, but once again, tens of thousands of students are left out of that promise in the interest of giving undue consideration to nonpublic schools, some of which demonstrably fail to provide their students with a proper education.

As NYSED scraps previously proposed regulations and once again delays action to enforce substantial equivalency, these students will begin the 2021-2022 school year without any guarantee that they will learn the basics of math, language arts, science, and social studies. There is no plan to support them or their educational rights in the interim, despite long-standing evidence that they are victims of educational neglect. 

While my peers and I are incredibly disappointed in this outcome, we are grateful to those Regents who are vocal advocates for making sure that all New York students become part of an informed and educated citizenry. We look forward to working with the NYSED and Board of Regents to ensure that this new proposed timeline is the final delay to enforcing substantial equivalency.”

About Young Advocates for Fair Education (YAFFED):  YAFFED is an advocacy group committed to improving educational curricula within ultra-Orthodox schools. We fervently believe that every child is entitled to a fair and equitable education that is in compliance with the law. Our work involves raising awareness about the importance of general studies education, and encouraging elected officials, Department of Education officials and the leadership of the ultra-Orthodox world to act responsibly in preparing their youth for economic sufficiency and for broad access to the resources of the modern world.

 

 

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—No concrete action taken by the City or State since YAFFED filed a formal complaint in 2015—

(New York, NY)—Today Young Advocates for Fair Education (YAFFED), an advocacy group committed to improving education in ultra-Orthodox and Hasidic yeshivas, issued a report on the ongoing educational neglect in many of these schools, and the consistent delays to oversight and reform at both the city and state level.

In 2015, YAFFED filed a formal complaint with the New York City Department of Education (DOE) on behalf of former yeshiva students and parents. The complaint named ultra-Orthodox schools in NYC that do not provide an adequate secular education in topics like English, science, and math. This is a violation of New York state law, which mandates that every student attending nonpublic schools receive an education that is at least substantially equivalent to that of public schools.

The subsequent investigation, which was subject to delay and political horse-trading by City Hall, found that 26 of 28 schools investigated did not meet the substantial equivalency standard. 

Nearly six years after YAFFED filed its complaint, the City and State have not taken any definitive action to address the issue and improve education in these schools. Proposed regulations to enforce substantial equivalency have languished under consideration by the New York State Education Department (NYSED) Board of Regents, a process that initially began in December 2017. 

“Earlier this month, The Board of Regents met, and once again, the regulations were not even discussed and educational neglect is allowed to continue. To be perfectly clear, inaction is not neutral—it maintains the status quo, depriving more than 60,000 New York students of an education,” said Naftuli Moster, Founder and Executive Director of YAFFED.

“As the 2020-21 school year draws to a close, we are more or less exactly where we started back in 2015. There is no excuse for this delay. The evidence is clear and action needs to be taken immediately, ” Moster continued.

“Every child in New York, regardless of their religion, has a right to a secular education that provides them with the basics needed for a successful future. This can go hand-in-hand with religious studies, as is the case in many Orthodox Jewish Day Schools and Catholic schools across the state. Despite years of evidence and advocacy, students in New York’s ultra-Orthodox Hasidic yeshivas have been left behind by education officials, negatively impacting their futures and the future of our state,” said Rabbi Elchanan Weinbach.

“A well-rounded education doesn’t undermine one’s religious freedom, it enhances it,” said Rabbi Ysoscher Katz

The full report, which outlines years and delay and obstruction, can be accessed here

About Young Advocates for Fair Education (YAFFED): 

YAFFED is an advocacy group committed to improving educational curricula within ultra-Orthodox schools. We fervently believe that every child is entitled to a fair and equitable education that is in compliance with the law. Our work involves raising awareness about the importance of general studies education, and encouraging elected officials, Department of Education officials and the leadership of the ultra-Orthodox world to act responsibly in preparing their youth for economic sufficiency and for broad access to the resources of the modern world.
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

Lynsey Billet, lynsey@anatgerstein.com, (347) 361-8449
Sophie Crumpacker, sophie@anatgerstein.com, (347) 361-7128
Sydney Brown, sydney@anatgerstein.com, (347) 831-1415

YAFFED Statement on Chancellor Carranza Departure from New York City Department of Education 

(New York, NY)— Naftuli Moster, Executive Director of YAFFED, issued the following statement in response to the news that the current Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education (DOE) would vacate the post on March 15:

“We look forward to working with incoming Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter to improve secular education within ultra-Orthodox yeshivas—an issue that her predecessor was unable to advance despite ample time and evidence of mass educational neglect. We are hopeful that, under her leadership, the Department of Education will be able to maintain the independence it needs to realize actual reforms, free of interference from this or any future Mayoral administration. The crisis within many ultra-Orthodox and Hasidic yeshivas is urgent, and we stand ready to partner with the Chancellor to improve the lives of tens of thousands of students in these schools.”

About Young Advocates for Fair Education (YAFFED):
YAFFED is an advocacy group committed to improving educational curricula within ultra-Orthodox schools. We fervently believe that every child is entitled to a fair and equitable education that is in compliance with the law. Our work involves raising awareness about the importance of general studies education, and encouraging elected officials, Department of Education officials and the leadership of the ultra-Orthodox world to act responsibly in preparing their youth for economic sufficiency and for broad access to the resources of the modern world.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

Lynsey Billet, lynsey@anatgerstein.com, (347) 361-8449
Sydney Brown, sydney@anatgerstein.com, (347) 831-1415
Sophie Crumpacker, sophie@anatgerstein.com, (347) 361-7128

Rabbis & Jewish Communal Leaders to Candidates for NYC Office: Do Not Permit Educational Neglect In Our Name

One Hundred Rabbis and Leaders from the Jewish Community Send Letter to Candidates, Urge Them to Resist Argument that Secular Education Infringes on “Religious Freedom”  

(New York, NY)— Today, one hundred Jewish leaders and rabbis published a letter calling on candidates who are running for New York City public office in 2021 to support the rights of students to receive a basic education, regardless of the type of school they attend. The letter makes clear that a basic secular education within ultra-Orthodox yeshivas is not an infringement on the community’s “religious freedom,” as some have argued.

The letter reads, in part:

To state the obvious: Our religion does not require that kids be denied a basic education. Including or expanding time spent on secular education does not detract from a robust curriculum of religious studies. Secular education and Judaic studies can coexist—as can be seen in many Jewish day schools, Modern Orthodox yeshivas, and indeed many ultra-Orthodox girls’ schools.

Despite New York State law requiring nonpublic schools to provide a substantially equivalent education to public schools, the dearth of secular studies within ultra-Orthodox yeshivas is well-documented. In recent weeks, candidates have begun to outline plans for addressing this issue.

“What is happening in many ultra-Orthodox Yeshivas is nothing short of educational neglect. To excuse it in the name of religious freedom is offensive to Jewish and religious people everywhere. We are grateful that many candidates pledged to uphold the law and enforce the standards, and we call on other candidates to do the same,” said Naftuli Moster, Founder and Executive Director of YAFFED. “It is incumbent upon all candidates running for office in 2021 to pledge strong enforcement of the existing laws. Our door is open for those candidates who want to learn more about this issue and hear directly from victims of education neglect.”

The letter, which is still accepting signatures, can be read in full here.

About Young Advocates for Fair Education (YAFFED):
YAFFED is an advocacy group committed to improving educational curricula within ultra-Orthodox schools. We fervently believe that every child is entitled to a fair and equitable education that is in compliance with the law. Our work involves raising awareness about the importance of general studies education, and encouraging elected officials, Department of Education officials and the leadership of the ultra-Orthodox world to act responsibly in preparing their youth for economic sufficiency and for broad access to the resources of the modern world.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Lynsey Billet, lynsey@anatgerstein.com, (347) 361-8449
Sydney Brown, sydney@anatgerstein.com, (347) 831-1415
Sophie Crumpacker, sophie@anatgerstein.com, (347) 361-7128

YAFFED Statement on Appointment of Dr. Betty A. Rosa as Interim Commissioner of New York State Education Department

(New York, NY) — Naftuli Moster, Founder and Executive Director of Young Advocates for Fair Education (YAFFED), an advocacy organization focused on improving secular education in ultra-Orthodox Hasidic schools, issued the following statement in response to the appointment of Dr. Betty A. Rosa as Interim Commissioner of New York State Education Department (NYSED):

“We congratulate Dr. Rosa on this next step in her career and well-deserved opportunity to lead the NYSED. Dr. Rosa has long been a champion for all students, including those in ultra-Orthodox and Hasidic yeshivas who are still being denied a basic education. It was Dr. Rosa who began the discussion at the state-level to reevaluate and revise regulations in order to enforce substantial equivalency in non-public schools. We look forward to her continued leadership in this new role, and to working together to ensure that all schools are held accountable for providing a fair and equitable education to their students. After years of delay, YAFFED is confident that Dr. Rosa can finally see this process through and ensure that thousands of children do not miss out on yet another year of a fundamental education and an opportunity for successful futures.”

About YAFFED
YAFFED is an advocacy group committed to improving educational curricula within ultra-Orthodox schools. We fervently believe that every child is entitled to a fair and equitable education that is in compliance with the law. Our work involves raising awareness about the importance of general studies education, and encouraging elected officials, Department of Education officials and the leadership of the ultra-Orthodox world to act responsibly in preparing their youth for economic sufficiency and for broad access to the resources of the modern world.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Monday, May 11, 2020
Contact: Press@yaffed.org

Leaked emails reveal backroom deal to go slow on Yeshiva investigations; Mayor and top aides should be held accountable for denying children a basic education

Yaffed Calls on City and State to Enforce Education Laws After Bombshell Report of Stonewalling by New York City

New York, NY – A shocking new report confirms how New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio abused his power by interfering with a Department of Education investigation into allegations that tens of thousands of New York City children were being denied a basic education in Yeshivas. According to the leaked emails contained in the article, Mayor de Blasio was himself involved in offers to Ultra-Orthodox leaders to delay any DOE report on the investigation’s findings and to go “gentle” with the final report, in exchange for the extension of mayoral control in 2017, which was being held hostage by State Senators taking directions from leaders of the Ultra-Orthodox community. The deal to delay the report was apparently made so that Senator Simcha Felder had time to ram through the “Felder Amendment,” which was an attempt to soften the legal requirement that these schools provide a “substantially equivalent” education and to derail the State Education Department’s ability to ensure the right of Yeshiva students to receive one.

As Naftuli Moster, executive director of Young Advocates for Fair Education (Yaffed ) said, “These internal emails confirm how Mayor de Blasio and his top officials abused their power by making a deal with Ultra-Orthodox leaders to interfere and delay the release of the findings of an investigation into the denial of the rights of tens of thousands of New York City children to receive a basic education. With these alarming facts now fully public, we are demanding immediate actions be taken to reverse the corrupt results of these unconscionable acts.

Today, we call on the City of New York and New York State to enforce the law without further delay, and for the Attorney General’s office to launch a probe into the corruption that these emails reveal.”

The organization Yaffed called for the following actions to occur:

  1. The Board of Regents should immediately approve the long-delayed “substantial equivalency” regulations, first proposed almost two years ago on July 3, 2019; otherwise, they will be further rewarding and abetting the stonewalling efforts by Ultra-Orthodox leaders and the city.

  2. The New York State Attorney General Letitia James should direct the Public Integrity Bureau of her office to launch an investigation into the actions of  the Mayor and his top aides, to determine whether the various favors made and promised to the Ultra-Orthodox leaders in return for renewing mayoral control were legal.

  3. The New York City Department of Education (DOE) should release publicly all their findings on the education provided by individual Yeshivas and together with the State, develop a plan to enforce “substantial equivalency” as soon as possible, so it can be quickly and efficiently implemented when schools are back in session.

  4. The DOE and SED should ensure that during the coronavirus crisis, all Yeshiva students are receiving adequate secular instruction via remote learning.

  5. Deputy Chancellor Karin Goldmark, who appears to have been responsible for orchestrating this deal to sacrifice the education of tens of thousands of Yeshiva students, should be asked to immediately resign.

  6. The leaders of the State Legislature, Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and the respective Chairs of the Education Committees in the State Legislature, Assemblymember Michael Benedetto and Senator Shelley Mayer, should make it a priority to repeal the Felder Amendment, which was passed as a result of this disgraceful deal between the Mayor and Ultra-Orthodox leaders to delay the investigation into the Yeshivas.

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Yaffed Files Preliminary Injunction in Felder Amendment Suit

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 28th, 2018

Contact: Naftuli Moster, staff@yaffed.org

(New York, NY) – On Friday, August 24, YAFFED filed a motion in Brooklyn federal court seeking a preliminary injunction to stop enforcement of the Felder Amendment during the pendency of the lawsuit. The Amendment stands in the way of YAFFED’s mission and the ultimate goal of improving secular education in ultra-Orthodox Jewish non-public schools. The children of New York’s ultra-Orthodox community deserve enforcement of appropriate standards and not the watered down, ambiguous standard of the Felder Amendment, which effectively ratifies the existing conditions in these schools and allows the City to continue its lax enforcement of State Education Law.  We have asked the court to maintain the statutory status quo ante, which would require local districts and the State to enforce the pre-existing standards.

Yaffed Responds to NYC Chancellor Carranza’s Letter to NYSED Commissioner Elia, Calls for intensified, Speedier Investigation of Yeshivas Accused of Failing to Provide Adequate Secular Instruction to Students

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 20th, 2018

Contact: Naftuli Moster, staff@yaffed.org


(New York, NY) – Today, Young Advocates for Fair Education (YAFFED), a nonprofit committed to improving educational standards and curricula within ultra-Orthodox schools, held a press conference to discuss the letter from Chancellor Richard Carranza to New York State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia regarding the status of his investigation of some NYC yeshivas.

YAFFED Executive Director Naftuli Moster said “We are pleased that Chancellor Richard Carranza kept his promise to be more transparent than his predecessor. We hope this letter ushers in a new era of transparency and accountability.”

YAFFED called on the Chancellor and the Department of Education to redouble their efforts to ensure that all yeshivas provide their students with an education that is at least “substantially equivalent” to that of public schools.

“The letter confirms YAFFED’s allegations that lack of secular studies is a serious problem for many children in ultra-Orthodox and Hasidic yeshivas. It is a validation of our concerns, even though the investigation was incomplete. Clear evidence that the educational programs are not equivalent was found, even though inspectors were denied entry by many of the yeshivas.”

“There’s only one reason a school would bar the city from entering: they are hiding something. They are hiding because the situation is so bad that even with advance notice, they could not get their act together enough to make a pretense of compliance with the law.”

David Bloomfield, Professor of Education Leadership, Law & Policy Brooklyn College and The CUNY Graduate Center, added:

“The Chancellor’s letter describes a delayed, superficial, and deferential process of mayoral malfeasance and educational malpractice that denies students their basic educational rights in violation of state law.”

Yaffed Files Preliminary Injunction in Felder Amendment Suit

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 28th, 2018

Contact: Naftuli Moster, staff@yaffed.org

(New York, NY) – On Friday, August 24, YAFFED filed a motion in Brooklyn federal court seeking a preliminary injunction to stop enforcement of the Felder Amendment during the pendency of the lawsuit. The Amendment stands in the way of YAFFED’s mission and the ultimate goal of improving secular education in ultra-Orthodox Jewish non-public schools. The children of New York’s ultra-Orthodox community deserve enforcement of appropriate standards and not the watered down, ambiguous standard of the Felder Amendment, which effectively ratifies the existing conditions in these schools and allows the City to continue its lax enforcement of State Education Law.  We have asked the court to maintain the statutory status quo ante, which would require local districts and the State to enforce the pre-existing standards.

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