Many (if not most) haredi institutions are reportedly about to opt out of New York City's new universal pre-K program because, City and State New York reports, the program mandates that the pre-Ks the city funds have to accept children of all (or no) faiths and can only provide religious instruction as in a comparative religions format. But don't expect haredim to secularize – and don't expect them to miss out on the money, either.
Many (if not most) haredi institutions are reportedly about to opt out of New York City's new universal pre-K program because, City and State NY reports, the program mandates that the pre-Ks the city funds have to accept children of all (or no) faiths and can only provide religious instruction as in a comparative religions format:
[City] guidelines include prohibiting religious symbols in school buildings or classrooms used by UPK students; texts from religious traditions (the Bible, Torah, Qu’ran, etc.) may be used when presented objectively as part of a secular program, though religious instruction in general is not permitted; and programs must include an English learning component, even if some portion of instruction is conducted in a non-English language.
Not listed in these guidelines, but confirmed with city officials, is the provision that these schools must also accept any child regardless of ethnicity, religion or gender.
The city has been in what it calls intensive negotiations with haredim to find ways to allow haredi pre-Ks to accept city money without violating these guidelines, although many people believe NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio will simply cave in to haredim and let them violate the guidelines – especially because enforcement of those guidelines is left to the city, and de Blasio is not viewed as a particularly trustworthy person when it comes to standing up to the haredi bloc vote.
The money at stake here is not trivial.
The city will pay pre-Ks $10,000 per student per school year if the pre-K's teachers have a teaching degree and $7,000 if they do not.
Haredim have a huge number of children per family, meaning the haredi community has a disproportionately high number of pre-K-age children.
It is very unlikely, I think, that de Blasio will allow a large voting bloc like either of the Satmar hasidic factions or Agudath Israel of America to be disenfranchised and cut off from this huge pool of money – especially when de Blaso publicly told Agudath Israel less than three weeks ago at the organization's annual fundraising dinner that his universal pre-K program was specially designed to include them.
(The Centrist Orthodox Orthodox Union is also reportedly upset with the program's guidelines and reportedly has member institutions which are going to opt out of the program over the secular-only requirement for use of the program's money.)
The state has reportedly allocated $300 million for New York City's program – but the enforcement of the requirement for the secular-only use of the money is left to de Blasio's administration, not Albany.
And this means, I think, that whatever the public face of this issue turns out to be, underneath that mask haredim will still run predominately religious or completely religious pre-Ks and will still exclude non-Jews (or will take extreme steps to dissuade them from trying to enroll their children), but the supposedly secular money will reach haredim and those haredi pre-Ks anyway.