Yeshivah Clause Comes Up in Orange County Senate Debate

NEW YORK -

A state constitutional amendment that clarified the standard for yeshivah secular education was one of several points of contention in this week’s debate between the two candidates vying to succeed the retiring incumbent Sen. Bill Larkin, a Republican whose district includes Kiryas Joel.

Democrat James Skoufis, an assemblyman from Woodbury, and Republican Tom Basile, a Stony Point councilman, differed on how they view the legislation passed in April called the Felder Amendment for its sponsor, state Sen. Simcha Felder of Brooklyn.

“There has to be minimum standards,” said Basile, “but every time you’re dealing with private or parochial schools we also have to be careful about interfering with any kind of religious mandates. … You have to weigh the fact that you don’t want the state to be too heavy handed, particularly when it comes to religious schools.”

Skoufis said he was concerned that the law did not pass constitutional muster and suggested it would be targeted in the courts.

“We do need to make sure that there is substantial equivalency in private schools,” Skoufis said. “…I do believe every child deserves a good, fundamentally solid education that prepares them for the future.”

Asked whether they were actively courting the Kiryas Joel vote, both said they were not.

However, sources close to the leadership of Kiryas Joel told Hamodia that Skoufis, who had previously been seen as an opponent to the Orthodox community, has been actively courting their support in the several months since he announced his Senate campaign.

The source said that Basile has not met with Kiryas Joel’s mayor or Gedaliah Segedin, the village’s administrator, to discuss the race.