Rockland County - Jewish schools get millions in E-Rate funds, lack computers
Peretz Klein, the longtime owner of Hashomer Alarm Systems in Spring Valley, credits the federal E-Rate program with making it possible for many needy yeshivas and other Orthodox Jewish schools to install computers and modern technology for their students.
“The government created this program to get technology in the schools,” he said. “It’s a very big help for many schools. We service the schools, do all we can to help them.”
Klein’s 33-year-old company has brought in millions in E-Rate grants to install infrastructure — servers, extensive wiring and more — at private schools in Rockland County and Brooklyn. His company is one of many across the country that focus their business on the long-controversial E-Rate program, created under the federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 to help schools and libraries in low-income communities keep up in the digital age.
Now a series of articles in The Jewish Week, a Manhattan-based newspaper, and its neighbor, The Jewish Daily Forward, have raised questions about the high percentage of E-Rate dollars in New York state going to Hasidic and other Orthodox schools and libraries, noting many of the schools do not allow student access to the Internet and the libraries were as minimal as a collection of audiotapes in a synagogue office.
The Jewish Week report found that while 4 percent of the state’s kindergarten through 12th-grade students attend private Jewish schools, 22 percent of New York’s E-rate allocations in 2011 — worth more than $30 million — went to Jewish schools and libraries.
Eric Iversen, spokesman for a company that administers E-Rate for the Federal Communications Commission, would not comment on Jewish Week’s findings or whether they would be investigated. He said that it is generally difficult to compare the amount of E-Rate awards to the size of a school or provider — or even a particular community — because allocations are based largely on financial need.
“Dollars are allocated in proportion to need,” Iversen said. “Schools with a higher proportion of high-need students will get a higher rate of resources.”