In February 2013, The Jewish Week’s series of articles on E-rate revealed that in New York State this federal program, designed to make technology accessible to the nation’s schools, disproportionately benefits fervently Orthodox schools.
In 2011, E-rate approved more than $30 million for services provided to Jewish schools in New York State; the overwhelming majority of that money went to haredi schools in Brooklyn and Rockland County that do not give pupils access to the Internet.
Jewish schools received 22 percent of the state’s E-rate funds, even though they enroll only 4 percent of the state’s K-12 students. Most of those funds were channeled through telecom and technology companies that appear to serve an exclusively Orthodox clientele.
Millions said to be diverted to Queens girls’ yeshiva from leading special-ed service provider.
A Queens-based special-education services provider illegally diverted millions of taxpayer dollars to a Far Rockaway Orthodox girls’ school and several other Jewish institutions, according to New York State auditors.
Our lead story this week is Part I (the second and third parts can be found on our website) of a three-part exploration of how a relatively small number of haredi yeshivas in New York have received tens of millions of dollars in federal funds designated for Internet and other telecommunication technology.
Technology and telecom expenses are notoriously confusing, and it can be difficult to gauge how much is reasonable for schools to spend. Not helping matters, most people The Jewish Week interviewed who have been involved in E-rate, were reluctant to offer even ballpark figures for tech expenses.
E-rate was created under President Bill Clinton, part of the sweeping Telecommunications Act of 1996. That legislation established the Universal Service Fund, a pool of money collected through a fee on long-distance phone service and then used to “help communities across the country secure access to affordable telecommunications services,” according to the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) website. The idea was to prevent low-income communities and nonprofit educational institutions from being left behind in the Internet revolution.