Court Strikes Down New York Education Guidelines

Yeshiva attorney Avi Schick delivering oral argument in New York state Supreme Court in Albany. (Reuvain Borchardt/Hamodia)

The new New York State Education guidelines for private schools have been struck down by a judge as an unlawful circumvention of the legal rulemaking process.

The extensive guidelines for private schools, issued by the state Education Department in November 2018, include a checklist with specific hours of study in particular subjects, and mandate that local school authorities visit schools and conduct reviews to ensure that they are compliant. The state said that the new requirements merely explain how private schools must fulfill the longstanding state law that private schools provide an education that is “substantially equivalent” to that provided in public schools. But yeshivahs, Catholic schools and independent private schools filed suit, arguing that the new requirements could only be made by the legislature or the legal rulemaking process, which includes publishing the proposed rule, giving time for public comment, and having a public hearing and vote by the state Board of Regents.

The private schools first sought a preliminary injunction, and oral arguments for the injunction were held on Monday before state Supreme Court Justice Christina L. Ryba in Albany. But in her ruling Wednesday, Ryba struck down the guidelines entirely.

“The mandatory language dictating when the reviews will begin coupled with the language that insists that ‘all’ schools will be visited as part of the process constitute clear rules and are not merely ‘interpretive statements which in themselves have no legal effect but are merely explanatory’” Ryba wrote. Therefore, “the new guidelines are ‘rules’ that were not implemented in compliance with the [State Administrative Procedure Act] and are hereby nullified.”

education guidelines
The New York state Education Department’s website, updated after Justice Ryba’s ruling.

Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, executive vice president of Agudath Israel of America, one of the plaintiff organizations on the yeshivah lawsuit, hailed the ruling.

“There is nothing more important to the yeshiva community than the independence of our educational institutions,” Rabbi Zwiebel said in a statement. “Today’s ruling preserves that independence, retaining the parental right to make educational choices for their children, by the educators they have entrusted their children to, rather than government bureaucrats.”

PEARLS (Parents for Educational and Religious Liberty in Schools), another plaintiff in the yeshivah lawsuit, also applauded the ruling overturning the new requirements, which it said would have “radically transform[ed] the relationship between the State and its private schools.”

“The tens of thousands of parents who choose to send their children to yeshivas are proud of the more than 100 years of quality education and countless successful graduates they have produced,” PEARLS said in a statement. “Our schools look forward to continuing that record of accomplishment.”

The Education Department may appeal the court ruling, or may seek to impose the guidelines via the rulemaking process.

Education Department spokeswoman Emily DeSantis told Hamodia that the Department is “reviewing the court’s decision and will determine the appropriate next steps.”

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