“Enough is enough!” That’s the basic message of a letter sent by concerned parents, former teachers, and former yeshiva students to New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina and seven district superintendents in Brooklyn and Queens expressing upset over the lack of a substantial secular education in at least 39 yeshivas.
Fifty-two unidentified signatories added their names to the letter, noting that ultra-Orthodox schools, especially boys’ yeshivas, spend far less time on secular instruction compared to the time spent on religious education.
Organized by the nascent education advocacy group Yaffed, the letter asks officials to “investigate the quality of secular education and, in particular English instruction, at the listed yeshivas and to take steps to ensure that pupils at these yeshivas receive the essential and substantially equivalent education to which they are entitled.”
According to Yaffed’s press release, these haredi schools typically offer an average of one-and-a-half hours of general studies on a regular school day, and English and math is only taught until students reach the age of 13, at which point their secular education is terminated entirely. Some graduates have alleged this disproportionate education has led them to become professionally stunted, unable to obtain financial independence, or enter into successful careers.
Yaffed officials are pushing for extended instruction hours; expansion of secular instruction in other subject areas besides English and math; and continuing secular instruction even into high school, among other reforms.
In an effort to protect its supporters, Yaffed said it has withheld the names of the signatories and the targeted schools. The group has retained attorneys Normal Siegel and Herbert Teitelbaum to represent their interests with the New York City Department of Education.
Update: DOE Promises Investigation
Upon receipt on Monday of a letter signed by 52 members of Brooklyn’s Jewish community charging that an alarming number of local yeshivas are in violation of state education laws by shortchange students on time spent on secular education, officials for the DOE say they will investigate the matter.
The Jewish Week reports that through an email response, DOE spokesman Harry Hatfield wrote, “We take seriously our responsibility to ensure that all students in New York receive an appropriate education, and we will investigate all allegations that are brought to our attention.”