Several months ago, Young Advocates for Fair Education (YAFFED), a nonprofit led by Naftuli Moster, YAFFED‘s Founder and Executive Director, filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York in Brooklyn against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, the New York State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, and N.Y. Board of Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa.
YAFFED alleged that on April 12, 2018, when Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law a budget that included an amendment to New York Education Law, Section 3204, section 2, known as the “Felder Amendment,” New York created a carve-out to the statutory requirement of substantial equivalent instruction in non-public schools that applies to and is intended to benefit only certain frum, Jewish non-public schools.
In doing so, Moster and Co. claimed, New York violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Today, that lawsuit was thrown out.
The lawsuit targeted an amendment to Section 3204 that was orchestrated by State Senator Simcha Felder.
During his campaign, Moster said, “All across America, special interest groups and individuals seek to chip away at a child’s access and right to a comprehensive education. Nowhere have they been more successful than right here in New York, where many yeshivas have gotten away with providing no secular education at all, or at best a very limited one, to tens of thousands of children. This sub-standard secular education was codified into law with Senator Felder’s amendment.”
As of June 2018, there were 273 Orthodox yeshivos registered with the state. 211 of these yeshivos are located in Kings County. In 2013-14, there were over 52,000 students enrolled in 83 yeshivos in New York City, concentrated in the neighborhoods of Borough Park, Williamsburg, and Crown Heights. An additional 26,446 students were enrolled in chassidishe schools in places such as Monsey, New Square, and Kiryas Yoel.
The “Education Clause” in Article XI, section 1 of the New York State Constitution ensures the availability of a “sound basic education” to all children in the State and creates the right to adequate instruction along with all the resources that such instruction requires. For public schools, the curriculum for grades one through eight must include instruction in the subject areas of arithmetic, reading, spelling, writing, the English language, geography, United States history, civics, hygiene, physical training, the history of New York State, and science. In high school, academic instruction must include instruction in the English language and its use, civics, hygiene, physical training, American history including the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States.
The court didn’t buy Moster’s claim that many yeshivos fail to provide any instruction comparable to instruction in these subject areas.