Forward Thinking

Jewish Week Publishes Orthodox E-Rate Investigation

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

An investigation out today from the Jewish Week sheds more light on apparent Orthodox abuse of the E-Rate subsidy program, which the Forward first reported on last week.

E-Rate, a federally mandated subsidy program, funds internet and telephone connectivity for schools and libraries. The Forward investigation revealed that Orthodox institutions that didn’t actually qualify as libraries were nonetheless receiving large E-Rate subsidies.

The Forward’s story also showed that these Orthodox libraries had received far more in subsidies than the average library in New York, and that experts questioned the size of the allocations.

The Jewish Week story focuses on Orthodox schools’ use of E-Rate. The newspaper reports that 22% of all New York State E-Rate allocations in 2011 went to Jewish schools, which constitute just 4% of the schools in the state.

That amounts to $30 million in E-Rate subsidies in 2011. Much of that money went to ultra-Orthodox schools that don’t allow Internet use in the classroom, according to the Jewish Week. The story demonstrates that a handful of large Jewish schools received disproportionately high amounts of E-Rate subsidy.

The investigation is the first in a three-part series, according to the paper.

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