Archives for category: New York

The New York Times reported that the largest private Hasidic Jewish school in the state of New York—the Central United Talmudical Academy— admitted in federal court that it had stolen millions of dollars from government programs. The school enrolls 2,000 boys and is located in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. The leaders of the school acknowledged that they had taken money intended for “school lunches, technology and child care” They created no-show jobs for some employees and paid others in cash, so they could receive welfare. The school will pay $5 million in fines in addition to more than $3 million that it has paid for restitution. .

State law requires all private schools to provide an education comparable to what is in public schools. In 2015, New York City’s education department said it would investigate complaints about the quality of secular education in schools in the Hasidic Jewish community.

The school will be overseen by an independent monitor for the next three years.

The Central United Talmudical Academy, an all-boys private religious school, factored prominently in a New York Times investigation last month that found that Hasidic boys’ schools across the state had received hundreds of millions of dollars in government funding while denying their students a basic secular education.

The Williamsburg school received about $10 million in government funding in the year before the pandemic, according to a Times analysis. Its leaders, who are affiliated with the Satmar group of Hasidic Judaism, also operate several other schools in the state.

There are more than 100 Hasidic boys’ schools in Brooklyn and the lower Hudson Valley, and they have received a total of more than $1 billion in taxpayer money over the past four years, The Times found. They focus on providing religious instruction, with most offering little instruction in English reading and math and almost no classes in history, science or civics.

In general, many Hasidic boys’ schools score lower on state standardized tests than any other schools in the state, public or private.

In 2019, The Times reported, the Central United Talmudical Academy agreed to give state standardized tests in reading and math to more than 1,000 students. Every one of them failed.

For years, critics have claimed that the state’s Hasidic schools fail to comply with the state law that requires them to offer a basic secular education in addition to an Orthodox Jewish religious education. Investigations have gone nowhere because of the political power of the Hasidic community, which tends to vote as a bloc. Politicians seek their endorsement, as NYC Eric Adams did. (On election night, the new Mayor had representatives of the Hasidic community by his side.) in the Legislature, a representative of the Hasidic community had a decisive vote when the State Senate was equally divided between Democrats and Republicans.

Dr. Betty Rosa, State Commissioner of Education, broke the stalemate. Hasidic groups undoubtedly will sue to block her order. They will say that the law interferes with their freedom of religion. They will say that they should not be required to teach their children in English or science or mathematics or social studies.

Bravo for Commissioner Rosa!

Question: Will the Supreme Court rule with the Hasids? Does the state have the right to tell religious schools what to do? Should these schools collect hundreds of millions a year a year from the state while defying state law?

The New York Times reported:

In a profound challenge to New York’s private Hasidic Jewish schools, state education authorities have determined that a large boys’ school in Brooklyn is violating state law by failing to provide a basic education.

The ruling marks the first time that the state has taken action against a Hasidic boys’ school, one of scores of private academies that provide robust religious instruction in Yiddish but little instruction in English and math, and virtually none in science, history or social studies. It also served as a stern rebuke of the administration of Mayor Eric Adams, whose education department had recommended that the school be found in compliance with a law requiring private schools to offer an education comparable with what is offered in public schools.

The decision, which was issued last week by commissioner Betty Rosa and has not been previously reported, stemmed from a lawsuit brought by a parent against the school alleging a lack of secular education. The ruling requires city education officials to work with the school, Yeshiva Mesivta Arugath Habosem, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, to come up with an improvement plan, something that many Hasidic schools have long fought to avoid. State officials will have final say over that improvement plan, putting additional pressure on city officials who have previously avoided intervening in the schools….

“The state did right,” said Beatrice Weber, a mother of 10 who brought the suit against her youngest child’s school and has since left the Hasidic community. “Hopefully now things will actually change.” Ms. Weber was recently named as the leader of Young Advocates for Fair Education, a group that has pushed for more secular education in Hasidic schools.

The decision will also provide the first test of a new set of state rules aimed at regulating private schools, including Jewish schools, known as yeshivas, which, like other religious schools, have largely been allowed to operate without government oversight for decades. Those regulations, which went into effect just two weeks ago, hold that schools that do not follow state law could lose their public funding.

Hasidic leaders waged fierce opposition to the new rules before they were approved by the State Board of Regents last month, casting them as an existential threat to the community. Earlier this week, a group of yeshivas and their supporters sued the state over the rules. Many of the plaintiffs were non-Hasidic schools that provide secular education and would likely not be affected by the regulations. The lawsuit has not been previously reported….

“Yeshivas are the central and irreplaceable pillar of the Orthodox Jewish life in New York,” reads the lawsuit, which seeks to have the regulations overturned.

On Wednesday, a spokesman for one of the groups that filed the lawsuit, the Parents for Educational and Religious Liberty in Schools, defended Yeshiva Mesivta Arugath Habosem.

“Educators from the city’s Department of Education visited the school several times and determined that it met the substantial equivalence standard,” said the spokesman, Richard Bamberger, referring to the state law. “It is disappointing that political appointees at the state education department won’t accept the city’s findings.”

Last month, The New York Times reported that more than 100 Hasidic boys’ schools in Brooklyn and the lower Hudson Valley have collected at least $1 billion in taxpayer dollars in the past four years, but many have denied their students a basic secular education.

Leonie Haimson has been leading the campaign for class size reduction (CSR) for more than 20 years. When I first met her in 2010, she convinced me that the research on class size reduction was overwhelming. It also happens to be the most important priority for parents. She is relentless. I am proud to be a board member of Class Size Matters, the small but mighty organization that Leonie founded and leads, on a budget that is a shoestring. For her dedication, hard work, and persistence, I add Leonie Haimson to the blog’s honor roll.

The campaign for CSR achieved its greatest success when the state legislature passed legislation to reduce class size, and after weeks of wondering, Governor Kathy Hochul signed the law.

Class Size Matters issued the following press release.

For immediate release: September 9, 2022

Contacts: Leonie Haimson: 917-435-9329;
Julia Watson: 978.518.0729;
Randi Garay and Shirley Aubin:

Yesterday, Governor Hochul signed the class size bill passed overwhelmingly last June by the Legislature that would require NYC to phase in smaller classes over five years. The only change from the original bill is that the implementation will now begin in the fall of 2023, rather than this September.

Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters, said, “Thank you, Governor Hochul, for listening to the research showing that class size matters, especially for kids who need help the most, and for heeding the pleas of parents and teachers that it’s time to provide true equity to our students, who have long suffered from the largest class sizes in the state. We are eager to help the Chancellor, the UFT and the CSA put together an action plan to make sure that the implementation of this necessary improvement in our schools goes forward in an effective and workable manner.”

“For years, New York city parents, teachers and advocates have demanded smaller class sizes to benefit all public school students,” said Wendy Lecker, Education Law Center Senior Attorney. “Now that Governor Hochul has signed the class size reduction bill championed by Senators Robert Jackson and John Liu, City schools finally have another important tool to ensure their students receive a constitutional sound basic education.”

Parent leaders Randi Garay and Shirley Aubin said, “As the co-chairs of the Chancellor’s Parent Advisory Council, which represents all the Parent Associations and Parent Teacher Associations in the city’s public schools, we know that smaller classes have been a top priority of NYC parents for decades and how desperately they are needed. In the wake of the pandemic and with the infusion of new state and federal funds, we believe that smaller classes are not only more critical than ever, but more achievable as well. Thank you to the Governor for seeing the importance of smaller class sizes and signing the bill into law.”

“Students in New York’s public schools will be better off thanks to the class size reduction bill that Gov. Hochul signed yesterday. By signing this bill into law, she is sending a clear and important signal that she is on students’ side. We applaud the Governor for her commitment to New York’s students, especially as we are moving toward the third and final year of the State’s Foundation Aid commitment,” said Marina Marcou-O’Malley, Operations and Policy Director, Alliance for Quality Education.


When the cowardly House Republicans decided to grovel before Trump despite his failed coup attempt, Liz Cheney was ousted as the #3 Republican in the House and replaced by Elise Stefanik of upstate New York. Stefanik was elected as a moderate but decided that her future would be secured by joining the Trumpists. She did and got into the mainstream, which was now subservient to the disgraced 45.

Alan Singer of Hofstra University shows that Stefanik has gone full-MAGA. She recently accused the New York State Department of Education of promoting critical race theory. What she meant was that the state expects schools to teach honest and accurate history. To a true MAGA sycophant, that is intolerable. To challenge her means you are engaged in a “witch hunt.” Is she a witch?

Singer writes:

Top House Republican leader, Trump sycophant, and conspiracy theorist extraordinaire, Representative Elise Stefanik of upstate New York, is busy attacking the New York State Department of Education claiming it is using federal funds to promote the dreaded Critical Race Theory or CRT in state public schools. Stefanik is also pressing New York education officials on how they are using money provided through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) on “social emotional learning” and “culturally responsive and sustaining education.”

State Education Department Commissioner Betty Rosa tried to explain to Stefanik that “the state Education Department does not provide critical race theory. It does, however, provide critical thinking. This allows our children to distinguish fact from opinion, achieve deeper understanding.” Rosa added, “Your accusation — whether intentional or negligent — is disappointing. What lesson are we teaching our children when a U.S. Representative traffics in conspiracies — and conflates opinions with fact.”

Stefanik replied “Instead of addressing my questions into the blatant misuse of federal taxpayer dollars, Commissioner Rosa shamefully attacked me. The facts in my letter were clear, and the implementation of CRT by any other name in New York classrooms is wrong. It is no surprise the Far-Left department would fail to fully comply with my request for the truth and revert to petty name-calling, because they know how outraged parents would be if they knew their hard-earned taxpayer dollars were used to peddle this radical ideology.”

Unfortunately, Stefanik, who graduated from Harvard University, seems unable to understand the distinction between Critical Race Theory and critical thinking or the difference between Critical Race Theory and respect for diversity and inclusion.

There must be something wrong with education at Harvard. Senate Republicans with Harvard degrees include rightwing Presidential hopefuls Tom Cotton (Arkansas) and “Ted” Cruz (Texas). Other Senate Republicans who are Harvard alums are Dan Sullivan (Alaska), Michael Braun (Indiana), Michael Crapo (Idaho), Mitt Romney (Utah), Ben Sasse (Nebraska), and Pat Toomey (Pennsylvania). Beside Stefanik, there are five other Harvard alum serving as Republican members in the House of Representatives. Harvard can also boast rightwing Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Virginia Governor Glen Youngkin as alums. Youngkin recently appointed a Civil War apologist to the Virginia historic resources board who insist that the he Civil War was fought to defend the “sovereignty of each state and constitutional law” and that statues celebrating Confederate leaders who made war against the United States “were built to tell the true story of the American South.”

The U.S. Supreme Court struck downNew York’s century-old concealed-carry gun law Thursday, removing restrictions on carrying guns in public and delivering a win to gun enthusiasts. The 6-3 ruling, which has been anticipated in the conservative-leaning court, makes it harder for officials to prevent civilians from carrying firearms in public without a permit by striking down New York’s rule that prospective gun-toters have “proper cause” to carry a weapon.

New York has long had separate measures in place to grant gun ownership for the home and for concealed carry in public.

The state’s top officials vowed to regroup and enact new measures to shore up New York’s gun control laws after the ruling Thursday, which kicks some decision-making back to a lower court and opens up new potential room for states to define “sensitive locations” where they will prohibit guns, like schools, courts, and, perhaps, subways, sports venues, and beyond.

Governor Kathy Hochul, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, all Democrats, vowed to return to Albany to pass additional legislation. “I’m prepared to call the Legislature back into session to deal with this. We’ve been in contact with the leadership. We’re just looking at dates,” Hochul said.

Lawmakers are looking at ways to strengthen existing permitting requirements, enable private businesses to ban guns, and increase the number of areas deemed “sensitive locations,” where the Court left the carve-out for restricting guns. Hochul signed Alyssa’s LawThursday, requiring schools to consider installing silent panic alarms as part of their security systems following the mass shooting in a Texas elementary school last month.

The New York City Council will hold an oversight hearing on “access to firearms” on Friday — Council Speaker Adrienne Adams and Council members on Thursday called on the state to make virtually all of New York City a sensitive location to prohibit concealed carry in the five boroughs.

Attorney General Letitia James and a number of prosecutors around the state, including in New York City, vowed to examine the ruling and look for ways to limit the dangers of guns proliferating in public.

Mayor Eric Adams said the city was reviewing its definition of “sensitive locations, and the city’s own gun license application process in light of the ruling. “Put simply, this Supreme Court ruling will put New Yorkers at further risk of gun violence,” the mayor said in a statement.

The New York State Board of Regents recently decided to permit the Ember Charter School in Brooklyn to expand and add a high school. Charter schools get permission to grow if they have demonstrated success. Gary Rubinstein checked state data and found that Ember’s greatest “success” was getting rid of students by attrition.

The Regents must know this too. Why did they vote to expand a failing charter school?

Rubinstein writes:

Currently there are 267 charter schools in New York City. In New York State the charter ‘cap’ is 460, though the cap for New York City is 267 so as of right now, no new charters can open in New York City.

Charter school supporters often complain that the cap needs to be lifted or that some of the out of NYC charter slots could be given to New York City. But there are two ways that charters can get more students even without lifting the cap. The most obvious way is for charters to reduce their attrition rates. So a network like Success Academy has about 40,000 students right now. But about 75% of their students who start in kindergarten don’t make it to graduation. Success Academy could probably increase their population to 70,000 if few of their students weren’t on the official or unofficial ‘got-to-go’ list. The other way to evade the cap is for existing charter schools to expand into more grades.

Ember charter school is a K-10 school that currently has 568 students. They were recently permitted to add high school grades based, in part, on the school’s ability to raise test scores. If you go to their website you will see a very impressive looking graph:

The light green line shows the percent of their first cohort’s math percent passing the state test from grade 3 to grade 7. It went from 28% in grade 3 down to 23% in grade 4 and then again to 14% in grade 5 Then an amazing reversal occurred and in 6th grade they shot up from 14% up to 56% and the next year they had 82% passing in grade 7. It seems to be an incredible turnaround from 14% to 82% in just 2 years.

When faced with a miracle statistic like this, there are two questions that cross my mind. The first thing I wonder is how much of this growth is based on attrition. The second is whether they were able to replicate this success for their other cohorts.

For that first cohort who finished 7th grade in 2018, I found on the New York State data site that this cohort once had 60 students when they were in first grade. By the time they got to the miracle 2017-2018 year where they got 82% passing the math test, they were down to just 28 students. Here is a graph of their percent passing math and their cohort size on the same graph.

As you can see, the two graphs are practically mirror images of each other. When they were 3rd graders, 16 out of 57 was 28%. When they were in 7th grade, 23 out of 28 was 82%. So basically they got 7 more kids to pass the test.

I made a similar chart for the second and third cohorts. The second cohort had similar attrition, they went fro 71 students down to 37 between 4th grade and 7th grade but they did not get the 82% passing by 7th grade. They only got to 43% passing, even with the nearly 50% attrition.

The third cohort was the lowest performing of all. They had almost no attrition, keeping around 65 students throughout. They only had 6% of that cohort passing in both 3rd and 4th grade. And by 6th grade they were up to 23%, well below the district.

So just like so many other charter schools, when they can’t cheat by booting out their students, their test scores are nothing special. How they get permission to expand is definitely a scandal.

Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters, asks you for your help. The state legislature overwhelmingly passed a bill to require reduced class sizes in NYC. Governor Hochul has not sign it yet. If she doesn’t sign within 39 days, it’s a “pocket veto.” At the same time, NYC Mayor Eric Adams plans to cut the budget for schools. This would certainly make class size reduction impossible. Act now!

On June 3, the NY State Legislature passed S09460/ A10498, a long-needed bill to require NYC to lower class sizes, by a vote of 147 to 2 in the State Assembly and 59 to 4 in the State Senate. It calls for class size caps to be phased in over five years in all New York City public schools, whose students have long struggled from being jammed into the largest class sizes in the state.

Instead of abiding by the intent of this bill, Mayor Adams and the City Council agreed to a budget that will cut school budgets by at least $215 million, making it likely that class sizes will increase rather than decrease next fall.

Please sign this petition to Gov. Hochul to sign the class size bill as soon as possible, so that NYC schools can get on the right track towards improving learning conditions rather than undermining them. The petition is co-sponsored by Class Size Matters, the Alliance for Quality Education, NYC Kids PAC and the Education Council Consortium.

If you are like me, your head is spinning about the conflicting signals about New York City’s public schools. The state legislature voted to mandate smaller class sizes, which will cost money, but the City Council voted to cut the schools’ budget.

Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters, encourages everyone to fight back. She has spent more than 20 years arguing for reduced class sizes as the most effective reform for schools.

Here is her message:

Dear folks – 

Sadly, late Monday night the NYC Council agreedto a city budget that will make at least $215M in cuts directly to schools, by a 44-6 vote. These egregious cuts, the largest since the Great Recession of 2007-2008, were made despite billions more in the city’s reserve fund, an expected city budget surplus of more than $1B next year, and nearly $5B in unspent federal stimulus funds meant for our schools. These cuts will likely cause class sizes to increase and the loss of critical services for kids, who are still recovering from the disruptions caused by more than two years of the pandemic.

There are three things you can do now to help us fight back:  

1.Sign our petition to Gov. Hochul, urging her to sign the new state class size bill, S09460A10498,as soon as possible, passed by the New York State Legislature on June 3 by a vote of 147 to 2 in the Assembly and 59 to 4 in the State Senate. Once she signs the bill, it will give us a legal avenue to try to reverse or limit the damage of these inexcusable cuts. The petition is co-sponsored by NYC Kids PAC, AQE and the Education Council Consortium.

2. You can also let DOE know directly how you feel about these cuts at the final C4E hearings tonight, Wed. June 15. You can sign up here, starting at 5 PM; the hearings begin at 6 PM. The public comments are required to be summarized, posted and sent to the NY State Education Department to help them decide whether to approve the city’s C4E plan. It goes without saying that “Excellence” will be harder to achieve than ever in our schools, given these devastating cuts. Some additional talking points are here.

3. Please also attend our Annual Skinny Award celebration, on Monday June 27, in which we will honor the state leaders who made the new class size bill possible.   You can find out more about our honorees and how to purchase your tickets here. This is the first fundraiser Class Size Matters has held in three years — and we can really use your support. The education leaders who will be there to receive their awards also deserve your thanks.

But don’t forget to sign our petition to Gov. Hochul today! I will be up in Albany tomorrow and will deliver it to her office if there are enough signatures by then.

Thanks, Leonie 

Leonie Haimson
Executive Director
Class Size Matters
124 Waverly Pl.
New York, NY 10011
phone: 917-435-9329
Follow on twitter @leoniehaimson
Subscribe to the Class Size Matters newsletter for regular updates at
Subscribe to the NYC Education list serv by emailing

Host of “Talk out of School” WBAI radio show and podcast at

Leonie Haimson urges every concerned New Yorker to call Governor Hochul and sign the class-size-reduction bill. If she does not sign within 30 days, the bill will die.


Whew! The long-awaited and much-needed class size bill was passed yesterday afternoon by the NY State Senate, 59 to 4, and late last night by the State Assembly. It calls for class size caps in NYC public schools of no more than 20 students in grades K-3; 23 students in 4th-8th grades; and 25 in high school academic classes, phased in over five years. If implemented well, it will bring a sea-change to our schools, and equity at last to NYC kids.

Our press release is here, along with quotes from AQE and the Ed Law Center, hailing the passage of this bill and thanking the key Legislators who made this happen. It is now up to us to ensure that the DOE’s class size reduction plan and its implementation are reasonable, effective, and responsive to parent and community concerns.

But the first step is to urge Gov. Hochul to sign the bill, so the planning can start NOW. Please call her today at 1-518-474-8390 or send her a message via her contact form here. Tell her: “Please sign A10498/S09460 now so that NYC students can benefit from the smaller classes that kids in the rest of the state already receive.”


After years of rallying, protesting, and demanding class size reductions, the parents and teachers of New York won! The legislature passed a bill mandating a reduction in class sizes.

This is the single most powerful reform that will help students, especially the neediest students, who will benefit from smaller classes and more teacher attention.

Class size reduction matters more than school choice or teacher evaluation or other expensive but ineffective fads.

A special shout out to Leonie Haimson, the unpaid executive director of Class Size matters, who has fought this battle with all her time and energy for years.

I’m proud to say that I am a board member of Class Size Matters and Leonie is a board member of the Network for Public Education.