Friday, June 13, 2014

De Blasio's Universal Kindergarten Church-State Rules Unsatisfactory To Both Sides

In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio has created a free, full-day pre-kindergarten program, offered in part through community-based organizations, as a major initiative. (Implementation Plan.) Hamodia reported last month that the mayor has made a number of concessions in order to attract Orthodox Jewish schools to participate in the program. The New York Daily News reported yesterday that the New York Civil Liberties Union is concerned that some of these cross the church-state separation line:
Guidance provided to religious schools by city officials in May allows them to screen potential teachers based on their religion “to the extent permitted by law,” use religious texts “when presented objectively” and give lessons in other languages such as Yiddish and Hebrew.
Nevertheless, according to The Forward yesterday a number of ultra-Orthodox schools may opt not to participate in the program.  They are particularly concerned about the ban on staff leading blessings after meals, and about the length of the required school day which will make it difficult to add hours for religious instruction at the beginning or end of the school day. Regulations for a similar program offered by New York state outside of New York City are more flexible, and some New York City Jewish schools are looking at whether they can apply to this program instead.