DNAinfo asked NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg if his administration was aware that many children in haredi schools are not taught math, science and other secular subjects and, if it was, what it planned to do about it. And even though NYC is responsible by law to make sure private school kids get an education that is "substantially equivalent to that provided in the public schools," Bloomberg did not even realize it was his administration's responsibility.
"I don’t think our Department of Education has anything to do with it. My guess would be it would be up to the state Department of Education. But we’ll be happy to check and see if they’re the ones that have the standards and have to enforce the standards for all the schools,” Bloomberg replied.
The state, however, disagrees. A spokesman for its Department of Education told DNAinfo that the board of education in each school district must make sure that children attending private schools or who are being home-schooled receive “instruction which is substantially equivalent to that provided in the public schools."
Guidelines published on the State DOE website also make it clear that the local superintendent is required to investigate out-of-compliance private schools and notify the State DOE if the particular school remains non-compliant.
"The superintendent [city DOE] should review materials and data which respond to the assertion and discuss with the officials of the nonpublic school plans for overcoming any deficiency. If a plan of improvement cannot be designed or if the superintendent judges that the program of instruction continues to be inadequate, the superintendent should notify the board that the nonpublic school program is not equivalent."
Borough President Marty Markowitz refused to condemn haredi schools that do not teach secular subjects to their students.
"It’s not for me to intervene in the priorities of education of religious institutions, whether they be Catholic or Protestants or Jews or Muslims or whatever it may be in any other religion, Buddhist and Hindus.”
Markowitz assumed that the state requires "basic education, and that's what they have to comply with.…But basic things, certainly English, to learn how to speak English, I would think we all share. And basic science and mathematics — basic. They may not go onto high algebra. And there should be some reasonable oversight on it, sure.”
The New York State Board of Regents, which oversees the state Department of Education, did not respond to DNAinfo’s request for comment.
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