State proposes revised regulations for private schools

Private schools, including Jewish yeshivas, will be given options to demonstrate that they provide academic education “substantially equivalent” to that of the public sector, under a revised regulatory plan announced by officials on Friday. state education.

Under this plan, non-public schools on Long Island and across the state could choose to obtain accreditation from a recognized agency or administer state tests to show their students are progressing in their studies. As an alternative, these schools could choose to have their teaching in English, social studies, math, and science evaluated by the local school district in which they are located.

Other state provisions require that academic subjects be taught in English and by “competent” teachers.

Adoption of the proposed new rules is to be considered next week at a regular monthly state board meeting. In recent years, a number of Jewish yeshivas have opposed government regulation on religious grounds, and state authorities have attempted to clarify what constitutes compliance with existing education law.

Private schools, like public schools, have been governed by New York State’s compulsory education law for more than a century.

At a press conference on Friday, state education officials said they had received more than 350,000 public comments on the proposed revisions to the rules, and many had expressed reservations. However, Daniel Morton-Bentley, assistant education commissioner and attorney, noted that the Education Act “cannot be ignored”.

Jim Baldwin, a senior deputy commissioner for education, said at the press conference that the state’s intent is to address regulatory issues with nonpublic schools in a collaborative manner, and “we respect the vision of the world of these schools”.

A prominent Orthodox group, Parents for Educational and Religious Liberty in Schools, or PEARLS, based in Brooklyn, denounced the state’s plan.

“Parents in New York City have chosen a yeshiva education for more than 120 years, and they are proud of the good results, and will continue to do so, with or without the blessing or support of Albany state leaders. “said Richard Bamberger, spokesperson for the group.

In recent weeks, experts have said they expect opponents of state regulation to take their case to court.

The current dispute over the regulation of private schools began in 2015, when former students and parents sued four yeshivas in Rockland County, upstate New York, for failing to provide an adequate secular education. The fight then spread to Brooklyn, then to Long Island and other parts of the state, as educators and religious leaders took sides.

A class action lawsuit filed at the time argued that the yeshivas in question had failed to teach the boys English, numeracy and other skills needed to succeed in adult life. Ultra-Orthodox schools focus on Judaic studies for boys, especially the Talmud or Jewish law.

One of the protest movement’s leaders, Naftuli Moster, voiced support for the state’s plan, describing it as “a major first step in bringing oversight, enforcement and accountability to many schools that have failed. disobeying the law for years”.

Moster is executive director of Yaffed, a group that lobbies for more secular education in Orthodox schools.

Proponents of Judaic education on Long Island have noted that many of their high schools offer advanced college-level courses and other enriched secular subjects.

Richard Altabe, principal of the Hebrew Academy of Long Beach, which has 1,000 students, said in a phone interview Friday that he appreciates some recent revisions to the state plan that he and his colleagues have been pushing for. Altabe added, however, that he questions the authority of the state to define the type of teachers who could be employed by nonpublic schools.

“I’m the manager,” Altabe said. “I want to decide who is a competent teacher.”

Those pushing for more secular education in Orthodox schools point to the New York State Compulsory Education Act, passed in 1895, which requires education in nonpublic schools to be roughly equivalent to that of the public sector.