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DOE Gets “Stonewalled” in Yeshiva Secular Education Probe



The New York City Department of Education has hit yet another roadblock in its years long investigation in to the woefully inadequate secular education being provided to students in certain Brooklyn yeshivas (Jewish schools).

Having launched its probe in 2015 of 39 Jewish schools that parents and others claim do not provide basic secular education courses to its students, the DOE has announced in a new report that 15 Brooklyn yeshivas have adamantly refused to allow their personnel access to the schools to vet them for secular educational competence, according to a New York Post report.

While many of these yeshivas place a sole emphasis on immersive religious studies, a group of 52 parents, alumni and other educational proponents brought this to the attention of the city three years ago in the hopes that a rigorous investigation of the matter would be pursued.

In a letter to state education officials, Richard Carranza, the Chancellor of NYC schools, expressed frustration in the lack of cooperation employed by the 15 yeshivas who are scheduled to be vetted by city officials.

“The long delay in scheduling visits to this group of 15 schools is a serious concern,” he wrote, adding that he wanted guidance from state officials in dealing with the rogue schools, according to a New York Post report.

Critics have long questioned the pace and transparency of the investigation. They have also charged that after the age of 13, (when religious study is engaged in on a full time basis) yeshiva boys receive no form of secular education at all, which would make it next to impossible for them to pursue a career or to attend college.

Supporters of individual freedoms have launched a defense of the constitutional rights of parents who send their children to the schools that emphasize religious study, saying that while their children’s curriculum departs from the secular norm, it is no less essential.
In addition to the 15 schools that have resisted DOE efforts to get answers, another nine of the schools were excluded from the DOE’s report either because they were now defunct or were exempt post-secondary institutions, according to the NYP report.
Some yeshivas have cooperated with the DOE as reflected in their report. They had made promises to introduce secular curricula into their schools that would tailor subject matter to Jewish beliefs.

“The schools have clearly made progress by creating culturally appropriate secular criteria and enlisting the supports necessary to implement them, including qualified external trainers, as described above,” the report states.

“I am gratified that some of the schools in this letter are committed to that path,” Carranza wrote.
His letter also asks state officials for advice and counsel on how to proceed in monitoring the educational trajectory of the resistant yeshivas.
Angered by the lack of educational reform and the protracted investigation process, critics believe that the stall tactics have empowered the yeshivas to wield power in the probe.
“There was a lot of stalling that allowed for changes on the ground,” said Naftuli Moster, a vocal proponent of yeshiva reform. “I get the sense that this was yeshiva-led and not DOE-led.”

Moster noted that Carranza’s arrival came long after the probe began and he lauded him for finally getting the report out.
“I commend Chancellor Carranza because he came in only a few months ago and is reporting on the limited information he has,” Moster said. “For the time being, I’m not putting this on Carranza.”

Moster added that on Monday, August 20th, his group will conduct a press conference on the matter near City Hall,

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