City Councilman Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), chairman of the Education Committee, on Monday criticized the Department of Education for not taking a serious approach to investigating yeshivas for poorly educating students.
“It doesn’t seem like there’s a true commitment to investigating one of the largest cases of educational neglect I’ve heard of since becoming chair of the education committee,” Dromm said in a telephone interview. “It’s really unfortunate that as of last week, they had only gone to six of the 39 yeshivas and I’m very disappointed and concerned about that.”
State law requires private schools, including those of a religious nature, to provide an education equal to that of public schools.
But some have charged that Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox yeshivas in the five boroughs are not teaching secular lessons such as math and science.
A report published last week by Young Advocates for Fair Education — established by yeshiva graduate Naftuli Moster and other Jewish leaders in 2011 — says the average yeshiva graduate speaks little or no English, has few or no marketable skills, earns a low income and is forced to rely upon public assistance to support an often large family.
Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña about a year and a half ago promised an update on the investigation, but nothing has been released. Meanwhile, yeshivas are provided millions of dollars in public aid by the city and state — the Jewish advocacy group estimates it at $120 million a year.
More than 60,000 students are impacted by the yeshivas allegedly denying them of a proper education, according to activists.
“It dooms these students into a life cycle of poverty,” Dromm said. “And in today’s world, you really need to have a solid education to succeed in life at all.”
No one from the Jewish educational community could be reached for comment.
Toya Holness, a spokeswoman for the DOE, said she could not provide a list of which yeshivas are under investigation or if any in Queens have already been visited.
State law requires those visits to be announced to officials at the schools ahead of time.
“The investigation is ongoing and we are treating this matter with the utmost seriousness,” the spokeswoman said in a statement.
Councilmembers Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) and Barry Grodenchik (D-Oakland Gardens), both of whom are Jewish, declined to comment, though the latter said the yeshivas in his district are “outstanding.”
But their unwillingness to speak publicly on the matter is not too surprising, according to their colleague.
“They themselves feel like they can’t speak out on this issue,” Dromm said of Jewish leaders across the city. “I don’t understand why there are so few people willing to speak out about it.”
In private though, the Jewish community is pushing the councilman to continue putting the heat on the DOE to probe the matter.
“Every Jewish leader I’ve spoken to has urged me to move forward with this and to continue to push the Department of Ed,” he said.