NYS to Seek Further Input on Education Guidelines

NEW YORK -
education guidelines
(Yeshivas Ohr Shraga Veretzky)

New York state appears poised to delay or amend proposed guidelines on private-school education, after having received over 140,00 comments from private-school advocates objecting to the guidelines.

At a meeting to be held Monday, the Education Department will recommend “going back out for stakeholder feedback on the proposed” guidelines, according to an agenda it released.

Last July, the New York state Education Department published proposed guidelines for secular-studies instruction in private schools. The guidelines, which provide detailed instructions for how private schools must fulfill the longstanding legal requirement that they provide an education “substantially equivalent” to that provided in public schools, mandate specific courses and the minimum number of hours to be dedicated to the study of each. The time requirements would obligate yeshivos, with a four-day week, to teach an average of more than four hours per day of secular studies in seventh and eighth grades, and an average of more than three hours per day in high school.

Among the required subjects are arts, visual arts and music, which many yeshivos and Orthodox Jewish parents either object to or believe is time that could be better spent on other pursuits.

Yeshivos would be placed under the purview of the local school authority which would visit each yeshivah to determine whether it is fulfilling the substantial-equivalency requirement.

Following publication of the guidelines, a 60-day public-comment period commenced, during which private-school advocates, mostly from the yeshivah community, submitted over 140,000 comments opposing the guidelines.

The guidelines only become law after a vote by the Board of Regents, but the Board has not yet voted on them at any of its monthly meetings. On the recently released agenda for Monday morning’s meeting, the Education Department says it will discuss the proposed guidelines, and notes, “From July 3, 2019 to September 3, 2019, the Department received over 140,000 comments on the proposed regulations. Department staff have been working to review and assess these extensive comments in the months since. A summary of the comments and an overview of the common themes, concerns, and suggestions raised will be provided for review and discussion.”

Under an item titled “timetable for implementation,” the agenda says, “Based on the unprecedented amounts of comments received, Department staff recommends going back out for stakeholder feedback on the proposed amendments.”

While the exact implications are unclear, this item apparently means that the Board will not be voting now on the guidelines, but will enter into further negotiations with private-school advocates on the substantial-equivalency issue.

Yeshivah advocates who spoke with Hamodia on Sunday said they are cautiously optimistic about the outcome of Monday’s meeting.

“I am happy that it seems the Board of Regents has realized the profound impact these guidelines would have on our community,” said a yeshivah parent who asked to be identified only as Benjy. “I am hopeful that the Board will work with the yeshivah community and negotiate in good faith to arrive at a mutually acceptable agreement.”

rborchardt@hamodia.com