This week, thirty New York City Council members – a majority of the total 51 members – sent a letter in support of yeshivas and nonpublic schools to Board of Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa and NYS Education Department Acting Commissioner Beth Berlin.
The letter states in part:
“We continue to believe that it is integral that the State respects parents’ legal right to choose their children’s schools. New York City nonpublic schools have had immeasurable successes in educating their students and preparing them for life. Nonpublic school graduates have been accepted into and attended Ivy League schools for college and post-graduate educations, they’ve gone on to create multi-billion dollar businesses, and even hold high-profile elected and appointed positions in local and United States governmental bodies. These accomplishments speak volumes about the educational standard in nonpublic schools here in New York City.”
Spearheaded by Councilman Chaim Deutsch, Chairman of the City Council’s Jewish Caucus, along with Councilman Kalman Yeger, who represents the largest concentration of nonpublic schools in New York City, this letter sends a strong message to the State. In December, a group of 28 Councilmembers sent a similar letter of support for yeshivas to then-Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, who, in response, dropped her proposal of updated substantial equivalency requirements.
*****SIGN UP NOW —- GET YOUR NEWS IN RECORD TIME***** Make sure you are one of the more than 22,000 that signed up to YWN WhatsApp Status to receive news in live time. Click this link – or send a message to 1-888-4-YW-NEWS (888-499-6397) – to see our status posts*****
The increase in signers on this week’s letter demonstrates the City Council’s growing support for nonpublic schools, and is a clear and robust rebuke of the State’s attempt to encroach upon yeshivas independence.
Deutsch said, “This letter sends a powerful message that the City Council will not sit idly and allow the State to overturn the substantial equivalency guidelines that have existed for over 100 years. Numbers don’t lie, and the numbers show that yeshivas and nonpublic schools have test scores and graduation rates that rival some of the highest performing public schools in New York City. I am grateful to my colleagues for signing onto this letter, including members of the City Council’s Education Committee; the entire Republican Caucus; the Chairs and some members of the Progressive Caucus; members of the Black, Latino, and Asian Caucus; and the majority of the Jewish Caucus.
In addition to the City Council’s letter, a public comment period that ended in early September drew over 140,000 objections from students, teachers, alumni, and supporters of nonpublic schools. Objectors included the Commissioner’s Advisory Council for Religious and Independent Schools, the Council for American Private Education, the New York State School Boards Association, the New York State Association of Independent Schools, and representatives of the Catholic, Muslim, Jewish, and independent school community.
The full letter reads:
Dear Chancellor Rosa and Commissioner Berlin,
As New York City Councilmembers representing hundreds of thousands of nonpublic school students, we have observed recent discussions about proposed substantial equivalency regulations with great interest. These suggested regulations include mandating a dozen courses to be taught in all private elementary schools, the length of time they must be taught in several grades, and requiring local school districts to evaluate all private school faculty.
On December 17, 2018, we sent a letter to then-Commissioner Elia noting our concerns with the guidelines released then. We write now to reiterate our displeasure with the State Education Department’s continued desire to upend the relationship between the State and nonpublic schools that has existed since 1894.
We continue to believe that it is integral that the State respects parents’ legal right to choose their children’s schools. New York City nonpublic schools have had immeasurable successes in educating their students and preparing them for life. Nonpublic school graduates have been accepted into and attended Ivy League schools for college and post-graduate educations, they’ve gone on to create multi-billion dollar businesses, and even hold high-profile elected and appointed positions in local and United States governmental bodies. These accomplishments speak volumes about the educational standard in nonpublic schools here in New York City.
It is our understanding that more than 140,000 parents, alumni, educators and supporters of nonpublic schools submitted letters to the NYS Department of Education to protest this proposal. These responses included statements of opposition from the New York State School Boards Association, the Council for American Private Education, the Commissioner’s Advisory Council for Religious and Independent Schools, and representatives of Jewish, Catholic, Muslim, and Independent schools.
The New York State School Boards Association, which speaks on behalf of more than 700 school districts statewide, stated in part, “We cannot support the proposed regulations in their current form…The specifics of the proposed regulatory provisions go beyond what has been historically recommended under the Department’s existing guidelines regarding substantial equivalency reviews. That concern is heightened by the embedded threat contained within the proposed regulations’ reference to the enforcement mechanism of Education Law §3234, which authorizes the commissioner to withhold state aid from districts that are found to be noncompliant with regulatory requirements.”
We urge you to reconsider these proposed guidelines, and additionally ask that you review the points made in the attached letter dated December 17, 2018, which still ring true under today’s circumstances. We look forward to your expeditious response to these concerns.
Laurie Cumbo (Council Majority Leader)
Steven Matteo (Council Minority Leader)
Ruben Diaz, Sr.
(YWN World Headquarters – NYC)