Three years ago a complaint was filed by parents, students and teachers with the City of New York alleging that 39 yeshivas were not offering a “substantially equivalent” education in English, math, history and science, basic tenet’s of universally accepted public education.
To assess, as mentioned in my column “The Convergence of the Nanny State and the Secular State,” the NYS Department of Education is obligated to conduct on-site reviews of the programs in use. If a school is not in compliance, the funding of textbooks, transportation coverage, teacher training, special programs etc. could be challenged. Currently, 40 percent of funding comes from federal coffers, 15 percent from the state and 9 percent from the city.
Addressing the enforcement of state law has become quite contentious. As you probably anticipate, certain stakeholders in the private school community do not want any oversight. One example, Mr. William F.B. O’Reilly, Chairman of the Federalist Society, and Newsday contributor asserts “freedom is at stake in yeshiva fight….Americans should be able to live independent from progressive orthodoxy.” I disagree. The provision of a well-rounded educational experience is sacrosanct, a moral and civic imperative of an educated society.
The real fly in the ointment is Orthodox New York State Senator Simcha Felder (D) representing the 17th district in Brooklyn. He recently had the audacity to hold Albany hostage demanding yeshivas escape state curriculum oversight. At 4 AM the next day, the budget finally passed and his influence seemed confirmed. The legislative agreed to carve out special standards for schools with especially long days, bilingual programs and nonprofit status, in effect yeshivas. Procedurally offensive and substantively disgusting he obviously has no regard for state law, nor the young people in his community needing the best possible useful education. He is also the only democrat in the senate who caucuses with republicans, running unopposed.
Enforcement! Don’t hold your breath a wait for anything meaningful to occur. The governor is up for re-election this year.