Ahead of a state-mandated deadline, Mayor Bill de Blasio issued a blunt warning Wednesday to four yeshivos he said were not allowing inspectors in to see if they are in compliance with rules on secular education, threatening an end to government funding if they continued refusing.
Richard Carranza, the city’s education chancellor, said he would be meeting with yeshivah groups on Thursday and expects to have dates when his team can visit the schools.
“My message to those four yeshivas is — time’s up, you must let the [Department of Education] officials into your school,” the mayor said at an unrelated press conference on education. “If not there will be very serious consequences.”
PEARLS, an umbrella group for the yeshivos, pushed back on the mayor’s assertions, saying that not a single yeshivah has denied the city access.
“Just a short few weeks ago, Commissioner Elia wrote a letter to Chancellor Carranza telling him that DOE needs training before it can conduct any substantial equivalency review visits,” PEARLS said in a statement. “The lack of training was the issue holding up the visits, not a misleading assertion that the yeshivos refused to let in th e reviewers.”
City officials aggressively sought access soon after the state Education Department set new guidelines in place in November for which subjects private schools must learn and how many hours a day they must engage in those studies. This is in order to comply with a vaguely worded constitutional requirement to be “substantially equivalent” to public schools.
Following a complaint, the state reined the city in, giving them a deadline of Feb. 15 to work cooperatively with the yeshivos.
De Blasio praised the cooperation the city got from nearly every one of the approximately 300 yeshivos in the city, saying that “very tangible, consistent progress” was made in addressing the issues. He noted that the traditional public schools also have problems “that we have to fix school by school.”
“If we have problems in the yeshivos and they’re working with us cooperatively,” he said, “that means everyone is on the same level playing field. There were some yeshivos that hesitated but now have gotten on the right path of engagement and are working with us constructively. There are four that are standing apart and they should stop now.”
Carranza said that his goal was to work with the schools and that “the plan is to walk out of the joint training with a series of dates in which we will be able to visit.”
If yeshivos do not allow inspection, de Blasio warned, “the ultimate consequence according to state law is for funding to be cut off. … They put their funding immediately in jeopardy.”
Under the guidelines issued last year by state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, local school authorities conduct inspections to ensure nonpublic schools are in compliance, but ultimate authority on which schools are conforming lies with Elia.
In New York City, the local authority is Carranza’s education department.