For nearly five years, students at ultra-Orthodox Jewish schools in New York City suffered while local officials delayed the results of an investigation into whether they were being taught basic educational skills for political reasons.
Spoiler alert: Some kids graduated without being able to write their own names.
Mayor Bill de Blasio (below) was accused of “political horse trading” in connection to the delay of an Education Department investigation into yeshivas, according to the New York Times. We covered these schools last year when it was revealed that their education standards continued to slip in part because English, math, and science are widely considered “profane” among Hasidics.
After a report revealed that only two of 28 schools met state education standards, and that the reasons for the delayed investigation included de Blasio’s political connections to certain Orthodox Jewish leaders, the New York Times editorial board raised the question of whether he put politics ahead of students.
The Department of Investigation, which looks into misconduct in city agencies, said it couldn’t determine whether Mayor de Blasio had personally authorized the delay, and it did not allege that the mayor had violated the law. But it concluded that the administration had interfered with the Education Department’s investigation into the yeshivas. And the Department of Investigation said the mayor “personally participated in conversations with at least one state senator and Orthodox community leaders about their broader concerns regarding oversight of yeshivas and how those concerns related to the extension of mayoral control.” The local and state officials involved were not named.
While the mayor dithered, children suffered. Years passed before city school investigators saw the insides of the classrooms where former students, teachers and parents said children weren’t learning basic skills.
Yeshiva officials were treated with kid gloves, allowed to put off visits by investigators even as some former students said they graduated unable to write their names.
This is bad enough but it’s not over. This report says the current system is woefully inadequate, along with why it took so long to get to that realization, but none of that cures the underlying issues.
The NYT piece also outlines additional issues with de Blasio’s connections to Jewish leaders and how it sometimes appears that he values those religious votes more than the people he’s supposed to represent. It also proposes a way forward:
Nobody’s vote is worth endangering the health and welfare of thousands of vulnerable children. The mayor should take the findings of the investigation to heart and move aggressively to bring city oversight to Orthodox schools.
It’s good advice. He should take it. Those schools do enough damage as is. They shouldn’t be allowed to get away with even more.
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