DOE Excludes Orthodox Jewish ZIP codes from Eligibility for 3-K, Pre-K Funding, Claims not “Hardest Hit by COVID”

DOE Excludes Orthodox Jewish ZIP codes from Eligibility for 3-K, Pre-K Funding, Claims not “Hardest Hit by COVID”

By Yehudit Garmaise

    Just as Orthodox Jewish communities were not considered among those “hardest hit by COVID” when Mayor Bill de Blasio’s selected 33 neighborhoods that were prioritized for vaccinations, could it be that the Department of Education (DOE) is now also excluding Jewish communities from eligibility for government funding for early childhood education?

   After the Department of Education e-mailed educators a list of ZIP codes that were considered "those hardest-hit by COVID," and are therefore eligible to apply for government funding for 3-K and pre-K, mosdos are trying to understand why not one Jewish ZIP code is on the list.

    "These Jewish neighborhoods that are now excluded from the DOE's list are the same Jewish neighborhoods that had such high COVID positivity rates that public rebuke, lockdowns, and red zones were in order," a Boro Park school administrator said. Now our neighborhoods are not considered to have been hit hard enough by COVID to apply for crucial funding that would allow thousands and thousands of 3- and 4-year-old children” to go to school in the Fall of 2021."

     In response to the DOE’s list of ZIP codes, none of which were ever put into red zones, that were called “those hardest hit by COVID,” a rabbi from Boro Park rhetorically asked, “Please add the zip codes that were made into red zones to the list of eligible ZIP codes that can apply for 3-K and pre-K funding.”

   “I didn’t see one Jewish neighborhood on that list: not even one that got in there by mistake,” a Boro Park rabbi said with a laugh.

   Perhaps the Department of Education (DOE) is following the lead of the mayor’s Task Force on Racial Equity, which considered low-income levels and limited access to healthcare to select its 33 ZIP codes that were given priority access to vaccinations?

   The Boro Park administrator responded, however, that in the DOE’s email, the ZIP codes that are eligible for government funding for 3-K and pre-K are simply described as “the areas that were most impacted by COVID.”

   “If you rely on metrics of poverty and lack of access to health-care, I can hear, I can’t argue with you,” he said. “But when you measure who was hardest hit by COVID, how can the DOE not count us now?

     The red zones, he said, were not only unpleasant, but they “triggered was a crazy amount of loss of funding for schools that required not only feverish fundraising, but teachers, administrators, and school bus drivers to work without pay.

    “When it came to taking away, the city counted us as the worst. Please put us in now when it comes to giving.”

photo credit: Tomash Devenishek/Flickr (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic)

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