In a fight between Bill de Blasio’s Department of Education and the yeshivas that teach the children of Haredi or Ultra-Orthodox Jews, it might seem like the Department of Education is the 800-pound-giant. The yeshivas are said to give too little attention to English, math, and other secular subjects, if they teach them at all.
But, as the Daily News reports, the Department of Education launched an investigation two years ago and there’s no end in sight.
Political power, pure and simple.
In New York City elections, the Haredi Jewish community is one of the strongest blocs of voters around. Though they lean towards the right on many issues, many New York City Jews are registered Democrats. For instance, the two leading Haredi legislators, State Senator Simcha Felder and Assemblyman Dov Hikind, are both registered Democrats though Felder caucuses with Republicans in the Senate and Hikind often supports Republicans.
Within the tight-knit communities, votes are often dictated by community leaders, and only some labor unions are more powerful when it comes to turning out voters. There are populous Orthodox communities in Washington Heights and across Queens and Brooklyn, including in Bill de Blasio’s old City Council district. (He represented the northern edges of Borough Park).
They’ve used this power mainly to secure government services and fight back against what they see as government intrusions. For instance, in 2011, they fought against the creation of bike lanes in South Williamsburg, successfully forcing the Bloomberg-era Department of Transportation to re-route bike lanes that went through predominantly Jewish areas there.
Now, when the issue comes to their private schools, they are likely strongly resisting behind the scenes. Bill de Blasio doesn’t want to upset a powerful constituency, especially right before an election, and so whether explicitly or implicitly, the investigation is dragging on without a conclusion. And so, nothing is improving for the students at those yeshivas.
The Department of Education might seem powerful but it’s no match for New York City politics.