City Council member Daniel Dromm, chairman of the education committee, will reportedly push an investigation into Jewish schools after reports of shockingly sub-standard educations at the 39 hasidic yeshivas in the city. The schools have been accused of spending little relative time on basic education in favor of religious studies — to the point that they have produced graduates who cannot read or write English or do basic math.
In July, education officials reported claims of sub-standard secular instruction from 52 former students, teachers and parents of children enrolled in the religious schools. State law required private and parochial schools to provide instruction that is “substantially equivalent” to what is offered in the public schools.
However, graduates have stated that most boys get just six hours of secular education a week. When they became 13, they said that all secular education ended and they only attended religious instruction. Ironically, due to the different treatment of Hasidic girls, the girls actually came out ahead because they cannot study all the religious texts. The result is that they reportedly got more actual education.
There are many top flight religious schools that excel at secular education. However, there have long been complaints that some schools focus more on religious indoctrination rather than conventional education. However, officials are often reluctant to evaluate such programs in deference to free exercise rights. Yet, the state law is unassailable from a constitutional standpoint in demanding the same foundational education for both public and private students.
In a flip side of this story, the controversy in Israel is the preference given yeshivas over non-Jewish private schools. Demonstrators have taken to the streets over the slashing of funds for Christian schools. Christians charge that Israel has been pressuring them to join the public school system and now has cut funding for their schools while continuing the funding for Jewish schools. There are some 33,000 students in 47 schools have been on strike over the cuts and raised the full funding of ultra-Orthodox schools.