New York State Cracks Down on Jewish Schools

My article appears in Education Next. Here’s the beginning:

When the New York Times ran an article headlined “Do Children Get a Subpar Education in Yeshivas? New York Says It Will Finally Find Out,” the newspaper illustrated the piece with a photo of a Jewish school in Queens.

An administrator from that school promptly complained to the Times about its photo selection, pointing out that six of the school’s recent graduates had attended Harvard Law School.

So the Times website swapped out the photo, replacing it with one of a Jewish school in Brooklyn. An administrator there complained too—noting that the school offers 24 Advanced Placement courses, including ones in physics, computer science, and calculus.

The Times then took down this second photo, replacing it online with a picture of an advocate whose organization sued the governor of New York in an attempt to force more secular instruction in Jewish private religious schools.

This episode from December 2018 neatly reflects the years-long policy battle over the curricula in Jewish schools in New York and the government’s role in overseeing them. High-quality educational offerings and outcomes are met with accusations of inferiority. And the Times is paying close, if clumsy, attention.

One can understand why. It’s a good story, of interest well beyond the Jewish community. Jewish schools educated more than 151,000 students in New York State in 2013, the last year a careful count was done. That’s more than the number enrolled in the Philadelphia City or San Diego Unified public-school districts. And taxpayers have a stake in how well the yeshivas are doing their jobs. The Jewish schools absorb more than $100 million a year in city government funds for things such as textbooks, special education, security, and transportation. What’s more, if yeshiva students don’t get the skills necessary to participate in the economy, other taxpayers may be stuck supporting them with subsidized housing and medical care, the schools’ critics contend

Read the full article in Education Next.

Update: The article is mentioned in TorahMusings.com’s “Daily Reyd” and in Mishpacha magazine.

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