NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — For more than four years, New York City has been taking a close look at the education provided by yeshivas and how it compares to public city schools.
On Wednesday, the results of an investigation into possible political interference and delays in getting that report done were released.
The Department of Education has been looking into whether instruction at some Hasidic yeshivas is “substantially equivalent” to the education provided in city public schools — a state requirement.
It’s a story CBS2 has been following for years after complaints that at least 39 yeshivas were not meeting the bare minimum in English, math, and other subjects, despite receiving taxpayer money.
The DOE’s investigation began in 2015 and there is still no final report.
For the past two years the Department of Investigation and Department of Investigation for New York City Public Schools have jointly been looking into the delays.
So what’s the hold up?
For starters, the public wasn’t made aware of any progress right away because the interim report was delayed by about a year by high-level representatives at City Hall, “in an attempt to secure support for extending mayoral control of the city’s schools.”
“The mayor was aware that members of his staff had made this commitment or offer to delay and he was aware of that at a time that he personally participated in the last round of vote whipping or lobbying to get the required votes to extend mayoral control of the schools,” DOI Commissioner Margaret Garnett said.
The investigation found that the agreement to delay the report to the state had little to no effect on the progress of the inquiry itself or its conclusions and that it was still in its early stages and would have contained only limited information.
“We did not find any criminality. There’s no violation of the law or cities regulations or rules,” Garnett added.
The mayor’s office responded, saying, “There’s no ‘there’ there, as evidenced by the finding of no wrongdoing.”
Delays in the actual inquiry were primarily due to “it found it difficult to enter and go into the yeshivas.”
It took two years for DOE officials to gain access and there were “prolonged disputes with the yeshivas’ attorney in obtaining curriculum information.”
There was also an issue with “the collaborative approach taken by the DOE to those disputes.”
The DOI and SCI felt it necessary to make a public comment on this Wednesday.
“It is a matter of public concern if there’s political interference with non-partisan fact finding and the risk there is that it can affect public confidence,” Garnett warned. “Given the ongoing public debate about the choices that have been made about government oversight of religious schools our team felt this merited public disclosure.”
Naftuli Moster, the executive director of Young Advocates for Fair Education released the following statement:
“What a disgrace. The DOI/SCI investigation shows the City is willing to trade away the education of tens of thousands of students for power and political influence. These findings also raise concerns as to whether the City will provide an accurate assessment of what is happening inside Yeshiva schools when it finally releases its report.”