In Hasidic enclaves, private schools that are failing get a lot of money from the government.
In the last four years, the government has given Hasidic Jewish religious schools in New York $1 billion, but no one from the outside can watch over them.
The Hasidic Jewish community has run one of the largest private schools in New York for a long time on its own terms, refusing to let anyone else look at how its students are doing.
But in 2019, the Central United Talmudical Academy agreed to let more than 1,000 students take state tests in reading and math.
None of them were successful.
Students at almost a dozen other schools run by the Hasidic community had similar bad results that year, which would normally be a sign of a broken education system. But while other schools might be having trouble because they don’t have enough money or because they aren’t run well, these schools are different. They are trying to fail.
Hasidic leaders in New York have built a lot of private schools for their children to teach them about Jewish law, prayer, and tradition and to keep them away from the rest of the world. They don’t teach much English, math, or science, and almost none of history or science. Instead, they spend hours drilling students in Yiddish religious lessons, sometimes in a brutal way.
A New York Times investigation found that as a result, generations of children have been denied a basic education, which has kept many of them in a cycle of not having jobs and being on welfare.
The Hasidic system fails most clearly in its more than 100 schools for boys, which keep boys and girls separate. The schools are all over Brooklyn and the lower Hudson Valley. Every year, they send out thousands of students who aren’t ready for the real world. This makes Hasidic neighborhoods some of the poorest places in New York.
The schools don’t seem to be following state laws that say kids should get a good education. Even so, The Times found that the Hasidic boys’ schools have found ways to get huge amounts of government money. In just the last four years, they have taken in more than $1 billion.
Even though city and state leaders have been told about the problems for years, they haven’t done anything about them. Instead, they have bowed to the pressure of Hasidic leaders, who try to get their followers to vote as a group and make protecting the schools their top political priority.
“I don’t know how to explain how frustrating it is,” said Moishy Klein, who recently left the community after realizing it hadn’t even taught him basic grammar, let alone the skills he needed to get a good job. “I thought to myself, ‘It’s crazy that I’m not learning anything. I can’t believe I’m 20 years old and don’t know any higher-level math or science.'”
The Times looked at thousands of pages of public records, translated dozens of documents written in Yiddish, and talked to more than 275 people, including current and former students, teachers, administrators, and government officials, in order to study the Hasidic schools.