The New York Times published a report Sunday analyzing New York’s Hasidic Jewish religious schools that have received around $1 billion in government funding in the last four years, but are not providing basic education to its students.
The Times found that many schools don't provide instruction in math, science or English along with their religious curriculum.
When faced with the findings of the exposé, Mayor Eric Adams and Gov. Kathy Hochul seemed unconcerned.
“I’m not concerned about the findings of the article,” Adams said Monday. “I want a thorough investigation. I want an independent review and that’s what the city has to do. And we’re going to look at that.”
Hohcul was more direct, deflecting the question by saying that the problems with these schools are the responsibility of state Department of Education officials.
“We believe that every child in the state of New York deserves to have a very high quality of education. People understand that this is outside the purview of the governor. There is a regulatory process in place, but the governor’s office has nothing to do with this,” Hochul said Monday.
For decades, state law has required that private schools, including yeshivas, provide an education that is “substiantially equivalent” to public schools. But there has been no clear guidelines put in place to ensure private schools are complying with the law.
A state oversight panel is set to pass new rules on Tuesday that will lay out specific criteria that private schools must be in compliance with the law, which include an alternative pathway that bypasses a Department of Education review.
Those pathways include administering Regents Exams, being accredited by recognized organizations, using the International Baccalaureate or regularly giving state examinations showing academic progress.
However, critics like Young Advocates for Fair Education, an organization that has been calling on lawmakers to regulate Hasidic yeshivas, say the alternative pathways for compliance leave room for loopholes.
“They include accreditation, which could be exploited if you form an accrediation agency, which the yeshivas are talking about doing,” said founder and executive director Naftuli Moster.
The report also brought to light multiple cases of corporal punishment, which the mayor did seem to take more seriously, saying that hurting children would not be tolerated.
“Any form of any way that would give the appearance that children are being harmed in any way is unacceptable,” Adams said.
The city’s Department of Education would be in charge of determining whether private schools, under the new guidelines, are meeting the necessary educational criteria. Once the new guidelines pass, they would go into effect on Sept. 28 of this year.
For now, it appears that state education leaders are left to lead the charge on reforming Hasidic yeshivas. Hochul is in an election year against New York's Republican candidate for governor, Lee Zeldin, and may not want to draw herself into a fight with a critical voting bloc.
Meanwhile, Adams continues to face scrutiny over his education policy, which includes cutting millions in funding for public schools.