New York ity is about to see some big changes come September as some children in public prekindergarten programs may see their school day interrupted for religious prayers. They may also have school during Christmas and Thanksgiving.
The new resolutions come from a "compromise by Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration," according to the New York Times. In an attempt to draw the attention of Orthodox Jewish and various private schools in his initiative, de Blasio has pushed for a resolution that would have a huge effect on prekindergarten programs.
Many of New York's prekindergarten programs are outsourced to private organizations as well as religious schools to run and are in turn compensated by the city. However, the Orthodox Jewish community have largely avoided this due to the fact that the city requires them to teach non-religious material for six hours and 20 minutes a day, leaving little time for religious teachings.
The city has been in talks with the Jewish community for months and are coming close to a compromise. De Blasio has set a goal of 70,000 kids enrolled in the programs by the coming fall. So far there are 53,000 children enrolled.
With the compromise, the hours of secular teaching remains the same but the schools are now allowed to spread the hours over six days as opposed to the usual five day school week. The religious schools are also now allowed to be open on federal holidays and close whenever they have religious observances.
The program will also allow a "short break" during the school day for "nonprogram activities," which will allow schools to conduct religious teachings and prayers.
Even amongst the Jewish community, the resolution has been divisive. Rabbi David Zweibel, executive director of an Orthodox Jewish organization, was in full support of it and commented that they would lead to a good increase in participation. However, Maury Litwack, director of state political affairs for Orthodox Union, believed that the changes would be "cosmetic," according to the NY Times.
If the hours of secular education was not reduced, the changes "would force 4-year-olds into an almost unending school attendance that would include Sundays and federal holidays."