WNYC Strikes Again; This Time on Lakewood

Once again, the publicly-funded WNYC released a report against a portion of the Orthodox Jewish community; this time the community of Lakewood.

The headline of the report claims that the growth of the Orthodox Jewish community "causes conflict" in Lakewood. The seven-minute radio report suggests that providing busing to the Orthodox Jewish community is the reason why the public schools are underfunded. From here on, the whole report is centered on backing up the premise that the Orthodox are a drain on public schools populated with children from other minority communities.
It is inaccurate to claim that the Orthodox Jewish community causes school budget issues when it's cheaper for New Jersey taxpayers to have twelve students in private schools - with a cost of less than $1,400 per pupil - than one student in public school with a cost of $17,572 each (as of the 2013-2014 school year). Strangely, WNYC does not lament the cost to educate and bus 1.37 million public school students in New Jersey or the 2.6 million in New York. Busing for 25,000 Orthodox Jewish school students in NJ and the 24,000 students in East Ramapo is what bothers them.

WNYC quotes a Rev. Glenn Wilson who "heads Lakewood UNITE, a group that advocates for the town’s public school families, most of whom are Hispanic or black." The Reverend who supports cutting courtesy busing from the Orthodox community - "predicts that the cuts will have a relatively minor impact on Orthodox Jewish families, who will carpool or make private busing arrangements." The Reverend then says, “Those kids that need courtesy busing - how are they going to get to school? Mainly in the black and Latino community where parents don’t drive? In the Latino community we have a very large undocumented community that do not drive."

Quoting this activist without challenge is journalistic malpractice for a few reasons:

1) An activist wants that children in the Jewish community to be treated differently than children of other communities yet the reporter - Meir Rinde - does not challenge him on it.

2) An activist uses an anti-Semitic generalization - that all Jews have it good and thus they all drive or can afford to arrange private busing - yet Rinde gives him a pass.

The reporter writes that the Orthodox "strained Lakewood's outdated infrastructure and led to severe financial deficits in the schools. Together, those problems have created a school busing crisis that has exacerbated social tensions and, according to public school parents, endangered their children’s safety." If Rinde writes this on the Orthodox Jewish community, he could have said it twelve times over on the Undocumented community: It costs taxpayers 12 times more to keep one child of the Undocumented community in public schools than one Orthodox Jewish student in private school. But WNYC will not dare blame the Undocumented community for leading "to several deficits in the schools"; such divisive language is reserved only for the Orthodox Jewish community. 

Finally, the report totally ignores the state funding formula. Basically, New Jersey decides if a district is rich or poor based on how much property value the district has compared to its public school enrollment. In Lakewood, the State sees massive property value (populated by the Private School community) but also sees few students in the public schools (because most students attend Yeshivas). Result? Lakewood seems rich and therefore the state gives it much less aid than needed. Hence, all the trouble. The same funding problem exists in East Ramapo; a district also mentioned in the report.

Writing contradictory and bigoted stories against the Orthodox Jewish Community has become a pattern of late at WNYC. Just last month, WNYC profiled only one high use section 8 community; Hasidim in Williamsburg. The report then suggested that poverty among Hasidim is self-inflicted as a result of the education in the community. But the same report also suggested that Hasidim are doing fine economically but they are eligible to section 8 because they have a cash economy. (OJPAC produced a video pointing it out.)

People in the Hasidic community or the Orthodox Jewish Community at large are not immune from criticism. Generalizing a community however, and using contradictory, fact-less arguments to trash a community, is unacceptable. Indeed, no other community is treated this way by WNYC.

The mission of the Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council (OJPAC) is to counter the defamation of the Orthodox Jewish Community, and to champion civil rights and civil liberties. Please consider supporting our efforts by following us on Twitter/Facebook (@OJPAC); by sharing our content and by donating funds via our Donate Page. Your support is appreciated!

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