The City Takes More Aggressive Approach on Yeshiva Investigation, Reported by New York Times

Posted on December 4, 2018

Do Children Get a Subpar Education in Yeshivas? New York Says It Will Finally Find Out

Originally Published in New York Times on December 3, 2018
Written by Eliza Shapiro

In parts of New York City, there are students who can barely read and write in English and have not been taught that dinosaurs once roamed Earth or that the Civil War occurred. Some of them are in their last year of high school. That is the claim made by graduates from ultra-Orthodox Jewish private schools called yeshivas, and they say that the situation has been commonplace for decades. Over three years ago, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration opened an investigation into a lack of secular education at yeshivas, but the probe essentially stalled almost immediately.

Then the state stepped in with the most significant action yet in the probe. MaryEllen Elia, the state education commissioner, released updated rules dictating how nonpublic schools like yeshivas are regulated and what students in those schools should learn, with consequences for schools that do not comply. “There’s no time to waste,” said Naftuli Moster, the founder of Young Advocates for Fair Education, which pushes for more secular instruction in yeshivas. “New York City has already been dragging its feet for three years.”

Still, enormous obstacles remain for those who want the city to shine a spotlight on yeshivas. Few, if any, politicians in Albany or downstate are willing to anger the Orthodox political establishment. And advocates said the new rules are encouraging but incomplete. Officials will visit all nonpublic schools by 2021 and visit every five years after that. Mr. Moster said he wanted the city to visit schools on a shorter timeline, for the sake of children who study in yeshivas. “You have kids who have entered school when we first started the complaint,” he said. “They are almost going to be in high school by the time any corrective action takes place.”

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