New York is threatening yeshivas to provide public “substantial equivalency” education — as crises of declining academic standards, grade inflation, truancy, and corporal punishment plague the city’s public schools.
Despite yeshiva graduates being outsized earners in relation to the general public, according to Pew, the State and City of New York are hustling the private religious institutions to incorporate secular curricula as part of “substantial equivalency” requirements. Some of the courses being pushed on the schools — which are attended for an education of piety and traditional values — include “hygiene,” “highway safety and traffic regulation,” and New York State history.
Demands on the schools, which service roughly 40,000 families just in Brooklyn, are made under threat of shutting them down and declaring their students truants.
According to a letter delivered to Brooklyn yeshivas in November, submitted in a court case between yeshivas and the State Department of Education, the city, under the state’s direction, is demanding a secular curriculum be instituted in the schools, and to dictate the recruitment and hiring process of teachers. That letter was the second one sent, to move goalposts after schools were found to have met the initial, more broad criteria demanded by the city a month prior.
Actions by the state government come following the November gubernatorial election — where Orthodox Jews in New York came out in an unprecedented push for Lee Zeldin (R), amid a torrent of hit-pieces by the New York Times. According to a buried lede in a Gothamist article published in November, the Hochul administration is using yeshiva regulations as a bludgeon against the community, which turned on Democrats.
“As Zeldin made repeated stops in Hasidic neighborhoods, the Hochul administration was keeping close watch: Those who levied especially bad faith attacks on the governor, the source said, may find themselves cut out of future discussions about yeshiva oversight,” the article says in a jaw-dropping revelation, attributed to a person in the governor’s office who did not have permission to speak on the issue.
After the publication of the initial Times story, headlined “In Hasidic Enclaves, Failing Private Schools Flush With Public Money,” the community watched as none of their elected leaders responded in their defense, no one pushed back on the aspersions, nor on the regulatory consequences that followed — except Zeldin.
“Literally nobody stood up for us, nobody spoke out,” said Jacob Rosenberg, a man from the Satmar Hasidic sect who spoke to Breitbart at the time. “There was one person who spoke out: Lee Zeldin.”
“Yeshiva education teaches values that have their students living law-abiding, productive lives, and provides high-quality learning experiences for so many young boys and girls,” said a statement released by Zeldin, following the Board of Regents vote to regulate yeshivas. “As Governor, I will promote more school choice, not less, and do everything in my power to fight for students first and empower parents to be in control of their family’s destiny in life and truly be in charge of their child’s education and upbringing.”
“Lee Zeldin spoke out and Kathy Hochul did not, regardless of whether there’s anything they can do,” Rosenberg continued. “Lee Zeldin at least pretended to care, he spoke up. Kathy Hochul dropped the ball. She was silent, she wasn’t there.”
The line in Gothamist caught the attention of federal-level politicians — in particular, third-ranking House Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik (NY-21), who told Breitbart the Hochul administration’s punitive action against the Jewish community is a “corrupt and illegal political attack.”
“The corrupt Hochul Administration has admitted that they will illegally wield the force of the state government against Orthodox schools because of the community’s support of Lee Zeldin for governor,” Stefanik told Breitbart.
“This is a state-dictated attack on Orthodox culture, religion, and their community’s First Amendment right to vocally support Lee Zeldin. In the face of Hochul’s corrupt and illegal political attack, I am proud to stand up for our Orthodox communities,” the New York congresswoman continued.
Governor Hochul’s office did not respond when reached for comment by Breitbart.
Meanwhile, New York public schools are facing scandals on multiple fronts, following a series of reports detailing subpar, and in some cases abusive, educational environments.
Nearly half of New York City public school graduates must take remedial classes in their first semester at local community colleges, according to a stunning report published in the New York Post on Saturday detailing a system in crisis.
“Amid chronic absenteeism, widespread grade inflation, and a failure to prepare students for higher education, city school kids are being shoved through an educational revolving door without truly learning,” the Post reported:
In Fall 2022 across the City University of New York’s seven community colleges, 5,046 former Department of Education students were enrolled in a remedial math course, while 4,250 had to take remedial English — 47% of all new DOE high school graduates, a CUNY spokesperson said.
The report, which quotes educators and experts describing the public high school system as “dumb it down until everybody passes,” and “a diploma ‘not worth the paper on which it was printed’,” details how DOE’s no-fail policies have robbed New York public school students of a basic education, waiving thousands of kids through to graduation without the proper prerequisites.
Violence in New York City public schools has required police response almost 1,200 times in the last academic year, according to police data retrieved through a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request by a community activist, shared with Breitbart.
According to raw data supplied by the city, there have been a total of 1,117 NYPD interactions at New York publics in the 2021-2022 academic year for “level 5” incidents of “seriously dangerous or violent behavior.” The FOIL documents detail a litany of incidents of “weapon possession,” “group violence,” “dangerous behavior … – gang related,” “physical sexual aggressive behavior,” and “selling/distributing illegal drugs or control [sic] substance,” among others, which include data for incidents involving students as well as staff.
State legislators have recently had to introduce a series of bills to address the use of corporal punishment in schools, after a damning report by Times Union found more than 1,600 incidents of abusive discipline in public schools in recent years — including spanking, slapping, choking, and dragging students, among other acts.
“Once I read the New York Times, it made me ask myself, ‘What are my kids missing?’ And I started looking more into, ‘What are the private school and the public school educations?’ Public schools, I’m not even going to talk about how mothers don’t feel safe sending their kids to school, not knowing if they’re going to come home safe and sound,” a religious mother of two sons currently enrolled in yeshivas being targeted by the state government told Breitbart, requesting her identity be concealed. “But I realized the more [progressive] the world is getting, the more it reinforces my desire to protect my kids — at this point I am more of a true believer in protecting my kids from that world, when I see that garbage,” the mother said, referring to the curricula currently being implemented in schools across the Empire State, which place heavy emphasis on race-essentialism and “gender theory,” and are increasingly abandoning concern for academic rigor or achievement.
“When you look at it, I’m surprised there are not more people who want to send to our schools, running to our schools, they should literally be running after us,” she quipped. “At the end of the day we’re raising productive human beings who know how to operate in the world as a mensch.”
The woman explained that among the yeshiva community — including the Hasidic community — the vast majority of men work to support their large families, and that is expected of them.
“They definitely encourage them, if a man wants to sit and learn [religious texts as their occupation], but usually the norm is that the woman will choose to be a homemaker and the husband will work, that’s the majority. In my high school class of 36, there are probably, maybe five whose husbands are learning,” she explained.
According to Pew, 24% of Haredi [Orthodox] Jews earn over $150,000/year, compared to 8% of the U.S. general population; 13% of Haredi [Orthodox] Jews earn between $100,000-$149,999/year, compared to 10% of the U.S. general population; and 43% of Haredi [Orthodox] Jews earn less than $50,000/year, compared to 56% of the U.S. general population.
“We learn everything you learn in the secular world, but from a religious perspective. Everything they learn is something they can adapt to the secular world. We see education as a means to an end, and I think the secular world has lost sight of that,” the mother of five continued. “Isn’t the point of education to turn out our kids with the tools to be productive human beings?”
The Brooklyn-native noted how “inclusivity”-obsessed ideologues running the education system somehow find acceptance for groups with any manner of “identities” — except those who hold identities that clash with postmodernism.
“For a state that is so ‘forward-thinking,’ like, so ‘woke,’ the idea that our education is wrong by not being something they think it should be, I find it, it reeks like bigotry,” she said.
“They have created a situation where reality is up for interpretation, anyone can be anything — if a girl can transition into a boy, a boy into a woman, who’s to say that psalms doesn’t ‘identify’ as Shakespeare,” she continued, bursting out laughing.
Emma-Jo Morris is the Politics Editor at Breitbart News. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter.