Gracie Mansion hopeful Andrew Yang on Thursday mounted an extraordinary defense of the Big Apple’s embattled yeshiva schools, telling a Jewish-run mayoral forum that the city has little business “prescribing” secular curriculum to the religious institutions.
Yang made the comments during a virtual New York City mayoral forum hosted by the New York Jewish Agenda after moderator Randi Weingarten asked him: “As mayor, how would you ensure that every child receives what the New York state Constitution calls a sound basic education on secular topics, including not just the public schools, but including the yeshivas and other religious schools.”
“When I looked at the yeshiva question, Randi, the first thing I wanted to see were — what were the outcomes, what is the data,” Yang responded.
The tech entrepreneur and a leading Democratic front-runner in the mayoral race, continued, “I do not think we should be prescribing a curriculum unless that curriculum can be demonstrated to have improved impact on people’s career trajectories and prospects afterwards.”
Yang’s remarks fly in the face of a damning 2019 report by the Department of Education on yeshiva schools in the city that found that just two of 28 provided adequate secular education to their students.
“If a school is delivering the same outcomes, like, I do not think we should be prescribing rigid curricula,” said Yang who then spoke of his experience in high school.
“I will also say that when I was in public school we studied the Bible for a month. Bible as literature,” he said. “If it was good enough for my public school, I do not see why we somehow are prioritizing secular over faith-based learning.”
The DOE report found that at one of the Jewish religious schools, there was no instruction at all into basic subjects like math, English, history and science. Of the 28 schools, just two had provided instruction that was “currently considered substantially equivalent” to state educational standards, the report found.
Yang previously told Jewish publication The Forward that if elected mayor of New York City, he would not take action to increase secular education in yeshivas.
“As mayor, I will always respect religious freedom including the freedom of parents to do what’s best for their kids educationally,” Yang, a one-time Democratic presidential candidate, told the newspaper. “Thus, we shouldn’t interfere with their religious and parental choice as long as the outcomes are good.”