Lakewood special ed school is virtually all-white, as minority district struggles, report says
LAKEWOOD — A school for children with special needs almost exclusively serves white students — but receives tax dollars from a struggling school district composed mostly of minority students, according to a report.
The Asbury Park Press reported Friday that according to its analysis, just one of the 202 public school students sent to the School for Children with Hidden intelligence this school year is non-white. It quotes Lakewood Board of Education President Barry Iann saying that mostly Orthodox Jewish students attend the school.
But the report also said that in 2016-2107, the Lakewood Public Schools system paid SCHI $22.9 million in tuition. The press report said though SCHI takes students from multiple towns, the vast majority — 193 of the 202 — come from Lakewood. Of those Lakewood sends, 192 are white and one is Hispanic, the report said.
The school district has often been criticized by education advocates for its spending on out-of-district special-education and religious schools.
Earlier this year, the district refused to fire about 140 teachers serving its mostly black and Latino population, as it faced a $15 million shortfall. Those attending a May district meeting were told the cuts would force 50 students into every classroom.
Ultimately, the state Department of Education announced a “state aid advance” of $8.5 million to help avoid the financial crisis. The funding also saved the district’s athletic programs, as well as extracurriculars like band and orchestra.
The SCHI itself was at the center of controversy in March, when its founder, Rabbi Osher Eisemann, 60, of Lakewood, was charged with stealing more than a half-million dollars in public tuition funds and creating a fake fundraising foundation.
“By allegedly stealing public funds that were strictly earmarked for the education of special needs students, Rabbi Eisemann broke the law, violated the public’s trust, and betrayed the vulnerable population of children served by SCHI,” Attorney General Christopher Porrino said at the time. “He had a duty to use every tuition dollar for the benefit of the children at the school, but instead he allegedly diverted hundreds of thousands of tuition dollars to gamble on a personal business venture.”
The FBI raided SCHI last June along with Orthodox schools in New York State, according to an earlier report by the Asbury Park Press.
— With prior reporting by Sergio Bichao and Dan Alexander
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