TODAY: Yeshivas Hit NYC Inspection Deadline

BROOKLYN, NY (03/29/2019) (readMedia)-- Today is the last business day in March and the deadline for New York City yeshivas to submit to inspection by the New York City Department of Education, according to Mayor de Blasio. At least six yeshivas have been uncooperative, and a group representing them recently filed a lawsuit against the New York State Education Department, resisting new, reasonable guidelines for all non-public schools. A judge will hear oral arguments today in Albany to consider granting a preliminary injunction against the state from enforcing its guidelines.

"As yeshivas fight a two front battle against the city and the state to resist any oversight whatsoever, thousands of students continue to suffer. That wilful and ongoing neglect is simply unacceptable, and the city must make public the results of its inspection," said Naftuli Moster, Executive Director of Yaffed.

In 2015 Yaffed filed an official complaint with New York City alleging educational neglect in Hasidic yeshivas. That neglect has deprived approximately thousands of ultra-Orthodox and Hasidic children of a basic education. Yeshivas receive millions in government 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. On November 20th, 2018 the NYS Education Department revised its guidelines for non-publish schools to attempt to correct decades of neglect and ensure that all students meet state standards.

The New York Times has recently editorialized in favor of the revised guidelines writing:

"By endangering students' health and futures, too many yeshivas have shown they need strict government supervision - whatever the political cost for elected officials."

The revised, minimal guidelines 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 culture

In addition to opposing the new regulations via litigation, Agudath Israel is pushing a proposal to further deregulate yeshiva education in New York State. The proposed language would amend the relevant law by adding a caveat to the existing "substantially equivalent" standard, making it "substantially equivalent in academic rigor." This caveat would shade ambiguity into the definition of "substantially equivalent" by expanding the definition to potentially include non-secular subjects, and lend additional cover to anyone trying to circumvent a secular education.