Private schools are required by most state laws to provide an education that is “substantially equivalent” to that provided by public schools. But in New York City, many Hasidic yeshivas do not teach sufficient English, math and science (“Concerns Persist About Curriculum Standards at Orthodox Yeshivas,” The Wall Street Journal, Sep. 8).
That finding is cause for concern for the 57,000 students enrolled. Young Advocates for Fair Education estimates that tens of thousands of children are shortchanged by a lack of a secular education. But the charge leads to an even more troubling issue. Like all private schools, yeshivas use taxpayer money for meals, textbooks and tutoring for poor children. According to the group, some yeshivas receive hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars in public funds. The exact amount is hard to know because they use a tax exemption granted to all churches that does not require filing financial documents with the Internal Revenue Service.
I support parental choice. But I also believe in obeying the law. These orthodox yeshivas are flouting the law. To make matters worse, they are using taxpayer dollars in the process. If charter schools, which are public schools, were failing to provide students with a basic education, they should be held accountable. But yeshivas, like all religious schools, are seemingly sacrosanct. Any attempt to force them to comply will be thwarted by claims of freedom of religion.
The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner’s Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.