The New York Jewish Week reports:
A tangle of hot-button issues — from rabbis allegedly molesting children to the staggering cost of day-school tuition to lax school security — is suddenly confronting yeshivas today.
And some parents, having complained about a lack of accountability by those who run and manage Orthodox yeshivas and day schools, are banding together to demand answers.
Last Sunday night, a group of about 15 parents gathered at the Young Israel of Long Beach for an inaugural meeting of the New York State Yeshiva Parents Association, which represents perhaps the first effort by yeshiva and day school parents to organize. Hosted by Elliot Pasik, a lawyer from Long Beach with five kids in the yeshiva system, the meeting attracted parents who have grown frustrated with various aspects of how private Jewish schools are operated.
“We Jews are wonderful thinkers and teachers, but we’re sometimes less good at the actual mechanics of operating a school and we shouldn’t be shy about asking the government to help us,” said Pasik.
Pasik said that over the past couple of years he has grown increasingly concerned about the discrepancy between the standards for public and private schools as well as the private schools’ seeming unwillingness to address some security concerns.
“Defibrillators are required in the public schools, but not in non-public schools. That makes no sense to me,” he said, citing an example. “It makes no sense that if you have a complaint against a public school employee you can complain to the state education department, but that that is not so for the private schools. The lack of statewide discipline encourages a climate of doing whatever they want — slapping a child or worse.”
Pasik has succeeded in partially closing at least one such gap. He recently fought for and won a New York State law that enables private schools to conduct background fingerprinting checks to determine whether a prospective employee has a criminal history. Previously, private schools were allowed only to do more limited checks. Public schools have been obliged to conduct background fingerprint checks for the past few years.
However, other efforts have not been as successful. Earlier this year, for example, Pasik said he represented a couple of former students from Yeshiva & Mesivta Torah Temimah of Flatbush who claimed they had been molested by Rabbi Yehuda Kolko. However, when Pasik asked for a rabbinical court to adjudicate, he was denied.
Meanwhile, since Rabbi Kolko, like many private school teachers, was not state certified, the alleged victims could not file their complaints with the state. The former students, now both adults, have sued the school and the rabbi, who has been put on administrative leave. The lawsuits are pending.
Such experiences convinced Pasik that “there has to be a neutral, unbiased forum that a child or parent with a grievance can go to. The government has to legally require that. A non-public school child should not feel less secure.”…
In a related issue in the same report, two of the parents involved in the Orthodox takeover of the Lawrence, NY school board make it clear critics were correct in their attacks on the move:
…Two of the people in attendance recently spearheaded a controversial effort to get an Orthodox majority on the Lawrence school board. That move, which succeeded, was designed to enable the board to attempt to get more financial support for private schools, namely by using public school teachers to teach secular studies in the private schools.
Jonathan Isler, one of the two men involved in that effort, said that now that four out of seven board members are Orthodox and that more than half of all Lawrence students attend private schools, there is a good chance that this effort will succeed. If it does, he said, the issue will likely wind up in the courts.
If public school teachers are eventually used to teach secular studies in the private schools, Isler, who sends his children to The Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway (HAFTR) estimated that the cost of a yeshiva or day school education — which can exceed $20,000 a year for high school — could be cut by 30 to 40 percent while the quality of secular studies could improve since public school teachers are state certified. …
In other words, take millions of dollars out of the public school system and put the money into private education, just what critics feared.
[Hat tip: JWB.]