Zeldin: Regulations on Yeshiva Curricula Are ‘Wrong,’ Private Education ‘Should Be Embraced’

By Reuvain Borchardt

BROOKLYN — Republican gubernatorial candidate Rep. Lee Zeldin criticized New York state’s proposed regulations of private school curricula, saying yeshivas are “providing a high quality education.”

“The state is wrong to be pushing the substantial-equivalency standards,” Zeldin said, after a Hamodia reporter asked at a press gaggle in Kensington about the newly proposed regulations by the state Education Department. “As we see here in Brooklyn, with yeshiva education, they’re providing a high-quality education for a lot of young boys and girls here in the community. And having access to choice and options is something that should be embraced in Albany. And unfortunately, right now, they are attacking these private-school educations.”

“They’re refusing to lift the cap on charter schools,” Zeldin continued. “They’re finding new ways to make life running a parochial school harder, and they’re wrong for doing it.

“My mother was a fourth grade elementary teacher at a yeshiva in Brooklyn growing up, before she became a public-school teacher on Long Island. And I have found that the yeshiva education is a high-quality education that should be embraced, should be rewarded, and we should make life administering one of these schools easier, not harder.”

Zeldin spoke with reporters Wednesday outside the 70th Precinct station, where his running mate, Lt. Gov. candidate Alison Esposito, had a walkout ceremony upon her retirement from the NYPD. Esposito, a deputy inspector, most recently was commanding officer of that precinct.

Zeldin has previously voiced opposition to the proposed guidelines, saying in a GOP gubernatorial debate last month, “We should be all opposing the substantial-equivalency move that’s going on right now up in Albany, and stick up for the yeshiva schools and all of the private parochial schools right now that are being targeted.”

The state Education Department proposed guidelines in March that would mandate in detail how private schools fulfill a longstanding legal requirement that they offer a secular education “substantially equivalent” to that offered in public schools. A public-comment period concluded at the end of May with around 250,000 comments opposing the proposed regulations. The Education Department is in the process of reviewing the comments and determining its next steps, which may include putting the regulations up for a final vote by the Board of Regents, re-issuing amended regulations, or abandoning regulations altogether.

Gov. Kathy Hochul, the Democratic incumbent, has spoken in support of yeshivas, but has not taken a position on the proposed regulations.

Asked about the proposed regulations by Hamodia in April, Hochul noted that she’s “visited many yeshivas” and noted the “quality” of their education and “how important that is.” However, she noted, “the state Education Department operated 100% independently from the administration. It is not an agency that I have jurisdiction or oversight over. But I’m also listening to the concerns of the community and I’m taking them very seriously.”

When a Hamodia reporter emailed a Hochul spokesperson in March asking for a comment from the governor on the regulations, the reporter was directed to contact the Education Department.

Republicans are hopeful that rising crime rates and national anger over high gas prices and inflation may lead to a red wave in November, including in this deep blue state.

Republicans and some moderate Democrats blame the crime spike largely on bail reform passed by the Democratic Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2019. The bail reform has since been partially rolled back several times — most recently this year, after Hochul held up the budget to get the rollback, over the objections of Democratic legislative leadership.

The primacy of the crime issue was underscored by Zeldin’s choice of Esposito – a lifelong police officer who has never held public office – as his running mate.

Asked Wednesday how he thinks he can win a state that last elected a Republican to statewide office in 2002, Zeldin replied,  “The top issues right now [are] crime and the economy. New Yorkers are hitting their breaking point. They are leaving this state; it’s happening every single day. People are heading to other states, where they feel like their money will go further. They feel like they’ll live life freer … I feel like this November is an opportunity that New Yorkers of all walks of life are well aware of as a moment, a crossroads, an opportunity to be able to take this state back in the right direction towards restoring it to glory. And I believe that four more years of Kathy Hochul is going to be setting this state back in a way that is unacceptable to all of us regardless of stripes, whatever county you’re from, whatever your ideology is, your party affiliation.”

Esposito struck a similar tone when asked Wednesday by Hamodia how a governor who is socially conservative and associated with Donald Trump can win in New York.

“Public safety, law and order, [people’s] ability to decide what’s best for their families, their children, their child’s education. I believe that these are the main issues that are affecting all of New Yorkers right now,” Esposito replied. “The ability to put food on their table, the ability to decide what’s best for their children, the ability to decide — whether they’re essential workers or not — to have their young children still wearing masks or having over-regulations, over-mandates that are crippling our economy, failing to bring jobs back to New York, failing to bring prosperity back to New York.”

The general election will be held November 8.

Click here to read Hamodia’s April interview with Zeldin.

Hochul has not granted Hamodia an interview despite repeated requests.

rborchardt@hamodia.com

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