The problem is particularly acute as regards many of New York’s Hasidic and ultra-Orthodox yeshivas.
New York State Education Law (Article 65, Section 3204) mandates that all children attending non-public schools receive an education that is “substantially equivalent” to that of public schools. More specifically, the law requires all non-public schools to provide instruction in English, mathematics, science and social studies among other subjects.
As a sixth-grade teacher of math and literacy at a Hasidic school in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg, I am extremely disappointed by the silence of mainstream Jewish organizations regarding a secular education bill moving through the New York State Legislature. The bill in question, introduced by Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee, would enforce a law passed in 1928 that requires private schools to provide an education that is “substantially equivalent” to the instruction provided in public schools.
While some have pointed out legal justifications for remaining silent on the proposed legislation, my day-to-day experiences in the classroom lead me to believe that the status quo is more intolerable and unsustainable than may be perceived. As a matter of conscience, and for the sake of the children involved, the situation calls for a far more vocal response from the Jewish institutional world.
On July 27, Oscar Cohen posted the following:
On Tuesday night, East Ramapo’s school board announced the appointment of Mr. Joseph Heimowitz, unknown to the public school community, to an open seat. Mr. Heimowitz, who it’s believed has no history of running for the board, was chosen over Ms. Jean Fields, retired Ramapo High School principal and co-chair of the Spring Valley NAACP Education Committee.
Ms. Fields, despite receiving over 4000 votes, lost a bid for a seat in last May’s election. Ms. Fields who is a person of color is recognized by students, parents and educators as an exemplary educator and community leader.
The Board also announced that board member Sabrina Charles-Pierre, who despite being duly elected in May for a two-year term, would not be permitted to serve the two-year term due to an “administrative oversight.” She will only be permitted to serve for one year. Ms. Charles-Pierre is a person of color.
President Willie Trotman, Spring Valley NAACP, is referring the Board’s decision regarding its “administrative oversight” to the New York State Board of Regents, State Education Commissioner, New York State Attorney General, New York Civil Liberties Union and the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights.
Education Committee Co-chair, Spring Valley NAACP
East Ramapo: Petition calls for board prez to resign
The board president said he believes the situation has “been blown out of proportion.”
Earlier this week, Sabrina Charles-Pierre’s term was cut in half because the district failed to swear her into office on time. The board, while acknowledging it made an administrative error by not swearing Charles-Pierre in within 30 days of the election results being certified, said it took corrective action Tuesday to ensure she remains on the board by appointing her to a one-year term.