A Letter to the NYS Education Department Regarding Yeshiva Education

Here are three points regarding the changes to education regulations proposed by your department that will alter how Yeshivas are run.

Legal: According to New York law, private school students must receive an education that is at least “substantially equivalent” to an education in public school. The call to change this law is predicated on the claim that many Yeshivas currently violate the law, yet the changes will render many Yeshivas non-compliant by the nature of the changes. Again, the claim is that many Yeshivas are non-compliant, and there is therefore a “need” to change the law which will make them noncompliant. This is equivalent to saying, “Vehicles doing 50 MPH violate the law,” but when asked which law, the answer is, “The new speed limit of 30 MPH.” The proposed changes don’t “just” introduce enforcement of the law; instead, the law’s meaning is changed.

Curriculum: Hasidic boys as young as nine years old are in school more hours than older public-school students. Detractors of Yeshivas use the term "religious" or “Judaic” studies to suggest that the day is packed with religious stories and prayers, but the studies include history, geography, mathematics, biology, and ethics. The standard Yeshiva curriculum has designated time for English, science, and social studies. In sum, this curriculum meets the one given in Public Schools. True, “religious” and “Judaic” studies are taught in Hebrew and Yiddish and structured differently than in public schools. But the law requires substantial equivalency, not substantial sameness.

Outcome: Hasidic-populated neighborhoods shine with peace and tranquility; strong family and communal foundations; employment; charitable institutions, volunteerism, civic engagement; low crime rates; low infant death rates; almost no homelessness or youth criminality. This is proof of a fantastic education system. However, because most Hasidic heads of households are young adults, it impacts income and poverty since A) young people earn much less than those who are older, and B) having more children at home elevates poverty rates because the rate is derived from measuring income relative to family size. Indeed, the Poverty Rate in Hasidic-populated Kiryas Joel in 2020 for unrelated individuals aged 45 through 64 was LOWER than for the same demographic statewide because once Hasidic men have fewer children at home and earn more due to being older, they hold their own; thus, undercutting the supposed “need” to change the Yeshiva system.

Thank you for reading.

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