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City Yeshivas See Boom in Enrollment, Trend Likely to Continue

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About one in five children who go to school in the city don't go to public schools, and recently there have been some big changes when it comes to who those kids are and what type of schools they're attending. NY1's Lindsey Chris filed the following report.

It's been a difficult decade for the city's Catholic schools - a steady and significant decline in enrollment means there are now 47,000 fewer students and a hundred schools where the doors are closed for good.

It's the exact opposite of what's been happening with the city's Jewish schools, where a growing Orthodox population has fueled a boom in Jewish education.

Now these opposing trends have crossed, and for the first time, the city's Jewish schools serve the most students outside of the public system.

"That trend of growth is certainly going to continue, particularly in the yeshiva and more Hasidic circles, where the growth is really exponential," said Yeshiva University Vice Provost Scott Goldberg.

Looking at state data, the city's Independent Budget Office found that 10 years ago, there were 134,948 Catholic school students compared to 73,254 Jewish school students. Now the number in Catholic schools has dropped to 87,301, significantly fewer than the 94,589 in Jewish schools.

NY1 also analyzed the state's numbers and found the enrollment differences will likely increase rapidly over the next few years.

As of now, the state says Jewish schools have about eight percent more students than Catholic schools. But when you compare enrollment for the first and second grades, Jewish schools have 53 percent more students.

From the Orthodox section of Williamsburg to the research centers at Yeshiva University, everyone says the expansion is easy to explain. In Orthodox communities almost every child goes to Jewish schools and most families have many children.

"There really isn't an option not to go to yeshiva or to day school. For most Jewish families they're identity builders," Goldberg noted.

In fact, Goldberg says the State Education Department is likely undercounting the population. Census reports conducted by a Jewish foundation have found thousands of additional students attend city yeshivas beyond those in state records.

That census comes out every five years, and the latest is about to be released. Many expect it to conclude that the city's rapidly expanding Jewish schools are already serving more than 100,000 students.

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