Sheesh, SCHI: A Civil Rights Complaint, Plus the Director of Lakewood Special Ed School Accused of Stealing Million Dollars from the District

Last week Rabbi Osher Eisemann, the founder of the School for Hidden Intelligence (SCHI), previously arrested for mere money-laundering, is now facing corruption charges. A year ago the State said he stole $630,000 in tuition paid by Lakewood Public Schools to SCHI, a state-approved private special education that educates almost exclusively ultra-Orthodox children.. (Lakewood schools’ monthly bill to SCHI is $1.8 million for 200 students’ tuition.) This new indictment, says the Asbury Park Press, “increases the sum Eisemann allegedly stole to $979,000.

The New Jersey attorney general says further investigation discovered Rabbi Osher Eisemann, the founder of the School for Children with Hidden Intelligence, wired $450,000 in public tuition funds from the school to “an entity in New York state owned by an associate.” That money was then used by the “associate” to pay off past-due New Jersey taxes, according to the attorney general.

In a new indictment filed Friday, Eisemann is charged with first-degree corruption of public resources, a crime that could carry a prison sentence of 10 to 20 years prison if he is convicted. The school’s fundraising foundation, Services for Hidden Intelligence, is also charged with the corruption count.

Here is the $979,000 broken down:

  • $200,000 from “undetermined sources” that Eisemann used to make it look like he was using his own money to repay debts he owed to SCHI
  • $12,000 to pay his credit card debt
  • $317,000 for a private business venture
  • $450,000 for the back taxes

“Eisemann allegedly used the school’s fundraising foundation to play a shell game with public tuition funds, moving huge sums to places that had nothing to do with serving the school and its students and everything to do with serving his personal ends,” New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal said in a news release.

Shortly before this story broke a Lakewood resident who wishes to remain anonymous forwarded to me a civil rights complaint filed by Pastor Glenn Wilson of Lakewood on April 18th, 2016 against the Lakewood Board of Education. Pastor Glenn is a longtime Lakewood resident who presides over a church in Howell that serves primarily African-American congregants. He is an outspoken advocate for minority students in Lakewood. Eisemann’s alleged malfesance is a caricature of what happens every day within the school district: Ultra-Orthodox kids get the riches and minority students get bubkes.

When filing a complaint the Civil Rights Office asks the filer for the reason for the discrimination; Pastor Glenn checked off the boxes for “race” and “religion.” The form also asks if the filer is represented by an attorney. He answered “no.” He begins by naming his co-complaintants: “United Neighbors Improving Today’s Equality” (the group representing Black Lakewood families, also known as U.N.I.T.E.) and Voz Latina (the group representing Lakewood Latino families). The he states, “I am filing this complaint on behalf of all minority children in the Lakewood public schools.” He ends with this: “WE MUST DETERMINE WHY THIS IS HAPPENING.”

Here’s the complaint. The referenced charts, which quantify the district’s practice of privileging ultra-Orthodox special needs students over Black and Latino special needs students, are at the end. The emphases are Pastor Glenn’s own.

Civil Rights Complaints, Civil Division

United States Attorney’s Office, District of New Jersey

970 Broad Street, Room 700

Newark NJ 07102

Dear Sir:

The New Jersey Department of Education has conducted several audits of the Lakewood New Jersey Board of Education during the past several years. These audits uncovered a disregard of state regulations, misallocation of funds, improper accounting and budgeting practices, inefficient documentation of vouchers, unapproved payments to outside vendors as well as a general lack of integrity in providing a “thorough and efficient ” education for the children enrolled in the Lakewood school system. Conditions have descended to such a degree that the NJ Dommissioner of Education has appointed state monitors to oversee the financial and special education proactices of this board.

Moreover, we believe there is a disparate treatment of minority students in being placed for special education services in this district. NJ State Monitor David Shafter presented a budget report to the public on Janurary 12 of this year. During this presentation he provided a chart regarding the special education practices of the Lakewood Board (copy enclosed).

As these charts indicate Black and Hispanic children comprise 90% of the school population but are placed in out of district schools 19% of the time while being placed in the regular schools 88% of the time. On the other hand the white segment, 8% of the school population, receive outside school placements 81% of the time and are placed in the district only 11%of the time, and not one orthodox child is placed in special education class run by the Lakewood system. An even more dramatic fact of discrimination is the population of the students in the two state approved special need schools in Lakewood. Both owned and run by the Orthodox community. The School for Children with Hidden Integlligence, SCHI, recieves tuition for 200 students from the Lakewood Board of Eduation and only ONE child out of the entire school population is a minority. Also the base cost for these students is ninety-seven thousand dollars ($97,000) with an additional ten thousand dollars (10,000) for a summer component.The other approved Lakewood school, The Center for Education, receives tuition for 61 students from the Lakewood board of education and are compensated at a base rate of fifty-five thousand dollaras per student ($55,000). There are no minorities in attendance at this school. The cost of providing an education for these white children, almost entirely Orthodox, is in excess of twenty-three million dollars ($23,000,000). The reality of the situation is that the entire school board is comprised of orthodox men with the exception of one minority woman, who works for an orthodox, and NONE of these individuals have children in the public schools! To exacerbate the situation 13 out of the 24 child study team members, whose responsibility is to place children in special education classes, are orthodox. Not only is the disproportionate placement of minority children prima facie case of discrimination but the diversion of funds from the normal school budget to educate a select white population has a detrimental effect on the services being provided to the minority children that remain in the school district.

We ask that the civil rights division investigate the obvious discriminatory proaces in the placement of the minority population of Lakewood!

Here are the charts Pastor Glenn appended to his complaint.  These counts are the percentage of students by ethnicity placed in state-approved private special education schools. Students enrolled in Lakewood Public Schools in 2015-2016 were 8 percent White,10 percent Black, and 82 percent Hispanic. In Lakewood “White” is almost always synomous with ultra-Orthodox. Lakewood’s 30,000 ultra-Orthodox students typically attend private yeshivas at their parents’ expense but if they are classified as disabled the district provides services, which may include tuition to other schools. (This can get messy: see here.)  In these cases the children are technically enrolled in Lakewood Public Schools.

In Private Schools             %White               %Black             %Hispanic

2011-2012             125                                 80%                     9%                   11%

2012-13                144                                 74%                    13%                   12%

2013-14                172                                 72%                    12%                   17%

2014-15                211                                  76%                     9%                   15%

2015-16                261                                  81%                     6%                  13%

 

In-District Placements                  %White              %Black             %Hispanic

2011-2012           811                                    14%                   19%                  66%

2012-2013          819                                     13%                  15%                  71%

2013-2014          838                                     11%                  12%                  76%

2014-15             849                                      14%                 10%                   76%

2015-2016         876                                      11%                  10%                   78%

 

 

 

 

 

 

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