As YWN readers are aware, this past November, State Education Department Commissioner MaryEllen Elia released new rules to require all private schools to teach essentially the same classes as the public schools.
Those rules were opposed by the entire private school community, which took the Commissioner to court to block her rules. The court agreed with the private schools, and on April 18 the rules were declared illegal, and were deemed null and void.
Well, Commissioner Elia is at it again. On Wednesday, just as government offices were closing for the long July 4th weekend, Commissioner Elia released her latest effort to regulate private schools. This time, the Commissioner is trying to accomplish by regulation what she could not achieve by guidelines.
The substance of the proposed regulations are the same as the guidelines that were found to be illegal, and are just as objectionable. They still require 4.4 hours a day of limudei chol every day in grades 7 and 8, they still mandate a long list of specific classes — up to 11 for certain grades — that every school must teach and the length of time they must be taught, and they still empower local school districts to review and approve the teachers at private schools.
Because these are proposed regulations, the public now has 60 days to submit comments about the regulations. The Board of Regents will then have to vote on them.
The Catholic and Independent school communities have already announced their opposition to these proposed regulations. They intend to have thousands of their school alumni and parents submit comments explaining why these regulations are misguided.
The Yeshiva community must do the same. In the coming days, every yeshiva parent should see information about how to register their opposition to these regulations. PEARLS, the Agudah and Torah Umersorah will all be contacting yeshivas and yeshiva parents and alumni to encourage them to submit a public comment in opposition.
The 17 members of the Board of Regents are not familiar with yeshivas or yeshiva education. We need to educate them — about the beauty of yeshiva education and about the success of yeshiva graduates and the yeshiva system. If we do that, the Commissioner’s second attempt to regulate yeshivas will fail just as her first did.
Rav Elya Brudny, Rav Yisroel Reisman and Rav Yaakov Bender were at the forefront of the successful opposition to the Commissioner’s guidelines, and they will again be leading the campaign to defeat these proposed regulations.
On this July 4th, America’s Independence Day, we should be proud to stand up for the American values of freedom of religion and to insist on our right to independent schools that teach our curriculum and our values.
Make sure the Board of Regents hears your voice. Let them know our yeshiva system is far superior to the public school system they want us to conform to.
PEARLS Statement on Release of State Education Department’s Proposed Regulations:
The regulations proposed by the State Education Department disregard the concerns expressed by more than 1,000 private schools from every segment of the nonpublic school community.
The proposed regulations disregard the long history of success demonstrated by private schools across New York State, they undermine the choices made by parents who choose private schools for their children, and they substitute the education bureaucracy in Albany for the private school leadership sought by parents and students.
The regulations proposed today are nothing more than a repackaging of the guidelines that were opposed by the entire private school community last Fall and declared null and void by the Albany Supreme Court this Spring. It is disappointing that the State Education Department failed to engage in dialogue with private school leaders prior to issuing these proposed regulations.
We remain willing to work collaboratively with the State Education Department. But we will continue to oppose SED’s attempt to impose top-down mandates on hundreds of thousands of private school children across the State. These proposed regulations will not be any more successful than the failed and rejected guidelines they replaced. We therefore urge SED to work with the private school community in a manner that respects the success, autonomy, history and purpose of private schools.
The recreation of Jewish life and learning in the United States after the destruction of the Holocaust was nothing short of miraculous. In 1944, there were two dozen Jewish schools in New York, with no more than 5000 students. Today, there are 165,000 students enrolled in more than 400 Jewish elementary and high schools in New York. State regulations cannot be allowed to hinder our mission or hamper our growth.