Yeshiva standards questioned at pre-Yom Tov rally in NYC

Why do opposition activists continue supporting politicians who use their private schools for political power? Op-ed.

Cindy Grosz

OpEds NYC demonstration for education
NYC demonstration for education

Why are Governor Cuomo, Mayor DeBlasio State Senators And Assemblymen using our private schools for political power?

Why do opposition activists continue supporting these politicians?

Hours before the second days of Pesach, I attended a gathering of education activists questioning the recent recent weakening of Yeshiva school standards met on the steps of City Hall in New York City.  

NYC education protests

According to Yaffed,  Young Advocates For Fair Education, a new law passed as part of the 2018 NY state budget was crafted specifically to affect only Hasidic and Orthodox Jewish children. It seeks to weaken the NY State Education Department’s ability to provide sufficient oversight to ensure that these children receive an adequate education.

This law was passed as result of the efforts of Simcha Felder, a State Senator from Brooklyn who alone held up the state budget in order to insert language intended to deprive students of their right to a basic education that will prepare them for good-paying jobs and success in life. New York State law requires non-public schools to provide an education that is “at least substantially equivalent” to that of public schools, so that no student is left in ignorance. The law requires non-public schools to provide instruction in “arithmetic, reading, spelling, writing, the English language, geography, United States history, civics, hygiene, physical training, the history of New York state and science.” But this law has not been enforced for decades, by either the state or the city.

Tens of thousands of children are not receiving the basic education to which they are entitled.
The Mayor and the NYC Department of Education has delayed taking any action for over two and a half years, even after they had promised to do so repeatedly. The NY Commissioner of Education was in the process of drafting new guidelines to enforce the law, which apparently prompted Sen. Felder’s actions to attempt to exempt Yeshivas from meeting any educational standards.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of children are not receiving the basic education to which they are entitled.

Further discussed were the validity and ramifications of the recent New York State bill tied to its annual budget (link here:  The Curious Case of the Yeshiva Carve-Out - The New York Times.

Yaffed's Executive Director, Nafuli Moster, a leader the past several years of exposing policy formation, execution and outcomes, suggested a six-point alternative to the new policies, including but not limited to:  Verifying if the bill is indeed constitutional, connect with pro-Bono attorneys to battle its legality in court, further study the bill and develop alternative standards, applications and research into success rates, seek full enforcement of law, demand objective measures for critical thinking and continuing the discussion of the issue of standards in yeshivas  in community meetings, education gatherings, visits to elected officials and in the press.

"The public needs to do more to hold government officials accountable," Moster said, citing Mayor Bill DeBlasio's allowing to ignore the issue until the last minute.  Moster blamed Governor Andrew Cuomo, up for re-election this year and facing a primary challenge from actress and Bernie Sanders supporter, Cynthia Nixon, for seeking advice from certain rabbis from  Kiryas Joel leadership, and ignoring bigger community leadership.  Finally, State Senator Simcha Felder for leading the budget stall in order to allow leeways in yeshiva standards on Good Friday and Passover.

Multiple small organization leadership and several speakers reiterated Moster's sentiments in one form or another.  I noticed the pattern. They were all supporting Democrats.  One speaker, Michael Rebell, executive director for the Center for Educational Equity, and Professor of law and education at Columbia University, even made a joke about mocking the election of 2016 as he tried to make the case that this bill is unconstitutional and that it puts yeshiva students under more and unequal pressure. 

This seemed to contradict previous remarks citing that these standards under-develop students, making them dependent on government subsidies and controllable by a few rabbinic leaders and ignorant of independence and choice of employment opportunities.

David Bloomfield, professor of educational leadership of law & policy at Brooklyn College, of the CUNY system, pointed out similar questions and further cited the lack of accountability of those aforementioned leaders.

Just curious, where are Rebell and Bloomfield when pro-BDS, anti-Zionist speakers like Linda Sarsour speak at their college campuses?  Are these men standing with leaders like Mort Klein of ZOA when lessons are pointed out in classrooms that distort Jewish and Israeli history?

Two Democratic elected officials spoke.  NYC Council Member Daniel Dromm, from Queens is demanding answers to the financial ties to this issue.  State Senator Marisol Alcantata, part of the Independent Democratic  Conference,  spoke about how this legislation impacts Catholic Schools, a subject close to her.  She is an immigrant and graduate of a private, Catholic School.

I found it fascinating that no Republican, Conservative or Jewish elected officials spoke.  

While I believe that yeshiva schools have an obligation to educate students that includes a curriculum of core subjects with accurate facts and competitive accountability, we must remember, we choose these schools. We can not label all yeshivas in this category.  There are many quality day schools stressing academic achievement, hiring certified and trained educators and administrators and offering religious classes, while promoting chesed, tzedakah and Torah.

Should we be airing our dirty laundry in public?  Is this anymore than Loshon Hora?  While this press conference was going on, a counter event took place in Williamsburg, Brooklyn?

NYC education protest

Here's A Novel Idea

Try talking to Republicans. I bet last year, when many who spoke had an opportunity to vote out this mayor, did not vote for Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis.  I bet they didn't even attempt to meet her.  Now, they have a chance to meet candidates for both New York Governor, Attorney General and members of both state houses, all up for re-election.

How About Going To Washington

President Trump and Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos are advocates of education reform.  If this issue impacts even ONE school, chances are it affects others.  Why make this a Jewish issue, especially targeting a leader wearing a yamukle?  

It's going to be interesting to see how Simcha Felder proceeds as 2018 elections on local, state and federal levels take shape.  

Education is a nonpartisan issue that needs bipartisan support.

Cindy Grosz is an award-winning Pro-Israel and Education Activist.  She works on exposing corruption in schools, improving oversight on classroom curriculum and ending anti-Semitism in education situations.  She also helps educators fight discrimination in the hiring and firing practices of school staff.