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Education leaders urged to improve instruction at NYC yeshivas

Members of YAFFED rallied at City Hall Monday calling on the Department of Education to do more to improve secular education at local yeshivas. (Photo by Alejandra O'Connell-Domenech)

Advocates are calling for immediate action want city and state education officials to do more to bring the secular instruction at New York City yeshivas up to par. 

“Let me be clear: These are not poorly performing schools. They are not schools at all,” said Naftuli Moster, founder and executive director of the Young Advocates for Fair Education (YAFFED), during a press conference Monday on the steps of City Hall. His advocacy group works to improve educational curriculum at orthodox yeshivas.

In 2015, the de Blasio administration began investigating educational standards in local yeshivas to see if students were receiving a basic secular education. 

Last week, the Department of Education released a long-awaited report on basic education requirements being met at the city’s yeshivas. The report found that just two of the 28 schools audited offered what the city considers a basic, standard education. 

According to the report, one of the schools was on the verge of reaching the basic state standards of secular education, while eight institutions were “moving towards” reaching those standards, and 12 others are “developing” and five are under-developed. 

Shortly prior the release of the DOE’s report on the investigated yeshivas, the city Department of Investigation and the Special Commissioner of Investigation released a joint report stating that members of de Blasio’s staff had participated in “political horse-trading” with an unnamed, local state senator in order to delay the report in return for support for mayoral control of the city’s school system. 

Following the report, the DOE required that the audited yeshivas create timelines for instructional improvement by no later than Jan. 15. Moster and other education advocates, however, demanded more dramatic change.

“We call on [Schools] Chancellor [Richard] Carranza to not let this notoriously corrupt mayor bring him down,” added Moster. “Carranza started his position with a reputation for always putting education before politics … there’s still time for him to turn this around and be a true champion for the helpless children.”

Advocates at the rally said they not only seek further improvements to secular education at yeshivas, but also details regarding the reported “horse-trading” — including the name of the unidentified state lawmaker.

The mayor’s office indicated it would work together with yeshivas and others to improve education for all students.

“This Administration believes engagement is the path to school improvement and that by working together we can achieve what’s best for all our children,” said Jane Mayer, deputy press secretary for Mayor de Blasio. “We know every day counts, which is why we have been working collaboratively with many of these schools for years and seen progress.”

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