As we’ve posted about before, New York State Sen. Simcha Felder — a “Democrat” who caucused with the Republicans, giving them a one-vote majority — essentially held the state’s budget hostage until it agreed not to interfere with the curriculum at yeshivas, the schools for Orthodox Jews. That meant there could be no oversight of schools that did a pathetic job of educating students about anything other than their holy book.
This lawsuit still hasn’t been resolved in the courts, but now that Democrats have a unified government in the state, the member groups of Secular Coalition for America (including the Society for Humanistic Judaism) are urging the legislature to undo the damage Felder caused.
We the undersigned secular and humanistic organizations believe that children have a fundamental human right to receive a quality education in secular subjects such as of English language, mathematics, science, history, and social studies that builds their capacity to become productive members of society and achieve their full potential. It is harmful to children and antithetical to the humanistic values of personal dignity and individual autonomy when children receive a substandard core secular curriculum. We believe government has a responsibility to enforce these secular core standards. While freedom of religion is a central tenet of democracy, it should not infringe on secular education that is fundamental to human progress and dignity.
… we urge the New York State legislature on its own to rescind the Felder Amendment and urge New York’s Department of Education to enforce its core secular educational standards for all schools, including yeshivas. Additionally, we implore New York’s Commissioner of Education to strengthen oversight and enforcement of state laws that require educational equivalency in non-public schools.