REVISED: Judge Rules in Favor of Yeshivas, Blocking Revised Oversight for New York Children

Zephyr Teachout + Common Cause/NY weigh in

NEW YORK, NY (04/18/2019) (readMedia)-- Today, an Albany Supreme Court judge ruled in favor of yeshivas, catholic and elite private schools, striking down revised guidelines for nonpublic schools from the New York State Education Department (NYSED).

HERE is the ruling.

"The Court's decision to rule in favor of yeshivas is a tragedy for all children. The New York State Education Department (NYSED) revised guidelines for nonpublic schools are reasonable and essential, not an intrusive overreach of the government. Removing the revised oversight signals to ultra-Orthodox yeshivas that they can continue business as usual and fail to provide basic instruction in math, English, science, history, civics and other subjects that are keys to a sound basic education. Elite private schools put their own annoyance about an occasional inspection over the future of Hasidic children -- and now thousands suffer," said Naftuli Moster, Executive Director of Yaffed.

"It is absolutely imperative for the Education Department to provide reasonable oversight to make sure every student in New York is receiving an education that complies with state standards. This is about educational equity, pure and simple and we have to start putting children ahead of politics. I sincerely hope that the Attorney General will appeal the judge's ruling and that state and city leaders will take appropriate action to end this ongoing neglect of students regardless of religion," said Zephyr Teachout.

"Yeshivas have been taking public money while skirting state education standards to the detriment of their students for decades. As political leaders kowtow to rabbis across the city, thousands of Hasidic children are caught in the middle without simple skills, like english and math. The New York State Education Department (NYSED) guidelines are minimal, and it's a Shonda yeshivas are getting away scotch free. We urge the state to appeal," said Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause/NY.

In early march, eleven elite private schools, including the prestigious Brearley and Spence Schools, filed a lawsuit as part of the New York State Association of Independent Schools to stop the state from enforcing its revised guidelines. These guidelines are designed to make sure that nonpublic schools are meeting the legal requirement to provide an education that's "substantially equivalent" to public schools. The guidelines do not differ significantly from previous versions, requiring the teaching of the basics, such as English, math, science, and social studies. A consortium of yeshivas and Catholic schools have also filed two similar lawsuits which claim religious freedom from oversight.


The NYSAIS lawsuit argued that the guidelines, which require an inspection within the next 2-3 years and then every 5 year subsequently, was an overreach of the state's power. The private schools are, in turn, helping yeshivas who refuse to meet the the state's guidelines as well. Catholic and elite private schools would easily pass any substantial equivalency test, but instead they've rallied to the defense of the ultra-Orthodox Yeshivas which make no secret of the fact that they haven't and won't provide their students with a full secular education.

The revised, minimal guidelines, established on November 20th, 2018 would require:

  • Nonpublic schools and religious schools to be inspected minimally: within the next 2-3 years and then every 5 year subsequently
  • Academically rigorous instruction in core subjects.
  • The local school board or the Chancellor to determine whether a substantially equivalent education is being provided in religious or nonpublic schools
  • The local district must work with the religious and nonpublic schools to review textbooks and ensure that each student is receiving a sound education while respecting the school's cultures

Yeshivas receive millions in state funding, but for years have eschewed the statutory requirement to provide a substantially equivalent education, leaving graduates woefully unprepared to succeed in secular society. Currently, students receive only 90 minutes of secular education in Hasidic boys' elementary schools, and none in high school.

YAFFED is an advocacy group committed to improving educational curricula within ultra-Orthodox schools. They fervently believe that every child is entitled to a fair and equitable education that is in compliance with the law. Their work involves raising awareness about the importance of general studies education, and encouraging elected officials, Department of Education officials and the leadership of the ultra-Orthodox world to act responsibly in preparing their youth for economic sufficiency and for broad access to the resources of the modern world.