Advocates question adequacy of religious school curriculums

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A number of religious-based private schools in the Hudson Valley are facing state scrutiny over accusations that they're failing to provide children with basic education.

"It's all religious education, and no secular studies taught whatsoever in many of the yeshivas," says Steven White, an education advocate referring to some private, ultra-Orthodox Jewish schools. "They're receiving at most an hour and a half to two hours of schooling in a school day."

According to White, students in the Hasidic communities of New Square, Monsey and Kiryas Joel are receiving educations that don't meet state requirements.

"You'll hear things like, I didn't know what a dinosaur was," he says. "I didn't know what a molecule was."

State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia says her department plans to strengthen guidelines governing such schools.

Currently, the superintendent of a public school district is supposed to make sure private schools in the district are following state law. But private schools aren't required to test or submit results, and the superintendents aren't allowed inside private schools.

Elia says additional training will be provided for school superintendents on this subject next year, and officials will make additionally unspecified changes.

A representative for the East Ramapo School District said current law would need to change in order to allow true oversight of private schools in the district.

Both the Kiryas Joel School District and the state DOE did not immediately respond to News 12 calls for comment.

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