Yaffed Applauds NYSED for Enforcing Yeshiva + Non Public School Guidelines Despite Lawsuits

Victory for students as yeshivas continue to oppose oversight via legislation and litigation

NEW YORK, NY (03/19/2019) (readMedia)-- Yesterday the New York State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia reiterated that the state would proceed to enforce new guidelines to guarantee a sound and basic education for the state's approximately 150,000 yeshiva students. Many yeshivas remain opposed to reasonable oversight, filing a lawsuit on March 7th claiming that any regulation is either 1) beyond the legal authority of the agency 2) a violation of religious freedom. A federal court has previously ruled that the agency has the authority to regulate non-public schools.

"Yeshivas have repeatedly demonstrated hostility to any oversight at all, even as they continue to benefit handsomely from taxpayer support. Oversight is not an attack on religious freedom. It's time to end the political posturing and have an honest discussion about how we're failing students," said Naftuli Moster, Executive Director of Yaffed.

The New York Times has recently editorialized in favor of the 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."

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.

The new, minimal guidelines, established on November 20th, 2018 would allow:

  • Nonpublic schools and religious schools to be inspected minimally: once every 2 to 3 years, then once every 5 years thereafter.
  • Academically rigorous instruction in the five core classes: English, History, Science, Mathematics, and Civics to develop critical thinking skills.
  • The local school board or the Chancellor to determine whether a substantially equivalent education is being provided in religious or nonpublic schools
  • The Commission to 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.

About Yaffed

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.

In 2017 YAFFED released a 90-page report, Non-Equivalent: The State of Education in New York City's Hasidic Yeshivas, which includes updated data on the amount and quality of secular education in New York City yeshivas, a detailed examination of funding provided to yeshivas, new demographic projections of Hasidic school enrollment in New York City, recommendations for the New York City Department of Education and New York State Education Department, and more.