New York Seeking to Finalize Education Guidelines by January

NEW YORK -
(Avraham Elbaz)

The New York State Board of Regents is seeking to finalize new guidelines for private-school education by the beginning of next year, after input from private-school advocates.

The state initially published guidelines in November 2018, giving detailed instructions how private schools must fulfill the longstanding legal requirement that they provide an education “substantially equivalent” with that of public schools. These regulations mandated specific courses, and the minimum number of hours to be dedicated to the study of each. The time requirements would have obligated yeshivos, which have a four-day week, to teach secular studies an average of more than four hours per day in seventh and eighth grades, and an average of more than three hours per day in high school. Private schools would be placed under the purview of the local school authority (LSA), which would visit each institution to determine whether it is fulfilling the substantial-equivalency requirement.

The guidelines were initially struck down by a judge on procedural grounds in April 2019, then re-released under proper procedures in July. But during the subsequent 60-day public-comment period, 140,000 comments were submitted to the Board, the vast majority opposing the rules. At its meeting in February, the Board of Regents said it would withdraw the guidelines and engage with stakeholders before releasing new rules.

The process of engaging with stakeholders was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. When the Board finally met on Monday, it resolved once again to engage with stakeholders, and said it would aim to publish the new proposed guidelines by early October and finalize them by January of next year.

As part of the engagement process, the state Education Department will schedule a series of public meetings, particularly in areas with large concentrations of private schools.

Following the meeting, private-school advocates said they were hopeful that the state would allow their schools to remain independent.

Agudath Israel, which has participated in both the 2019 lawsuit and the lobbying effort, said in a statement Monday that it “looks forward to continue participating in this process.”

“We are confident,” the organization said, “that at the end of the process the Board of Regents will recognize the unique role our yeshivas play in educating our students both in Limudei Kodesh as well as providing the tools needed to be productive members of society.”

Avi Schick, lead attorney for the yeshiva advocates, told Hamodia, “Today’s meeting contained a discussion about the process going forward, but not about the substance of what any regulations should look like. The entire private-school community, including yeshivas, independent schools and Catholic schools, remain united in our efforts to ensure the continued independence of our schools.”

rborchardt@hamodia.com