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Report claims New York City's Hasidic schools don't provide students a basic education

NEW YORK -- The New York State Board of Regents is expected to vote Tuesday on proposed rules requiring private schools to comply with the state's minimum academic standards.

The vote will follow an alarming New York Times investigation on Hasidic Jewish Schools, which found, for example, more than 1,000 students at the Central United Talmudical Academy in Brooklyn took standardized tests in reading and math and 100 percent of the students failed.

The report underscores a years-long tug of war between proponents of Jewish religious education, and those who feel there should also be a secular component of basic, non-religious education.

CBS2's Marcia Kramer has been reporting on this story for five years. Former Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration saw this as a political hot potato and used the pandemic as an excuse to put an investigation on the back burner.

Mayor Eric Adams has indicated he is going to put it on the front burner.

"I want a thorough investigation. I want an independent review," Adams said Monday.

The mayor was talking about stunning findings by the New York Times that the vast majority of students at New York yeshivas are unable to pass standardized tests given to public school students. The report found that 99 percent of the thousands of Hasidic boys who took the standardized tests in math and English in 2019 failed, and 80 percent of Hasidic girls failed.

The findings come as the state Board of Regents met Monday to discuss a new regulation is which Hasidic schools, yeshivas, could lose public funds if they fail to provide students with a basic secular education.

The ruling is expected Tuesday and could mean the loss of $1 billion in funding over five years for the state's 160 yeshivas, 102 of which are in New York City.

"The chancellor has made it clear that we're going to make sure every child receives a quality education in the city," Adams said.

The Board of Regents' ruling will follow a politically charged debate that was touched off when the group Young Advocates for Fair Education filed a complaint with the city that dozens of yeshivas were graduating students who couldn't read and write English. The group's then executive director, Naftali Moster, told Kramer in 2017 that he was a victim of poor secular education in Hasidic schools.

"In elementary and some middle schools, we received approximately 90 minutes of secular education. In high school, we got no secular education at all," Moster said.

Ari Hershkowitz told Kramer in 2017 he had to teach himself to read and write after attending a yeshiva in Williamsburg.

"I left school when I was 18. After I was 18, and I do not have a high school diploma or even the knowledge that a high school diploma comes with," Hershkowitz said.

There has been intense pushback by the yeshivas, pushback that reportedly made the de Blasio administration drag its feet in investigating the charges. A spokesman for the yeshivas told CBS2 they oppose the Regents' ruling.

"Parents in New York have been choosing a yeshiva education for more than 120 years, and they are proud of the successful results, and will continue to do the same with or without the support of state leaders in Albany," the spokesman said.

City Councilman Kalman Yeger, whose Brooklyn district includes several yeshivas, defended the success of the religious schools.

"Look at our kids that are coming out of yeshivas. Look at the kids that are coming out of the public school system and then ask yourself, really, is the yeshiva system failing? What I'll also say is what you don't have in the yeshiva system and you do have in the public school system is rampant cheating," Yeger said.

Over the past five years the de Blasio administration, which was largely supported by the Hasidic community, investigated just two of 28 complaints against yeshivas.

A spokesman for Mayor Adams told CBS2 that this time around political support will play no role.

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