Yaffed Calls on NYSED to Enact Emergency Regs to Protect Yeshiva Students
On the Brian Lehrer Show today Governor Cuomo says yeshivas have to comply with state law
BROOKLYN, NY (04/30/2019) (readMedia)-- In response to an Albany judge's ruling earlier this month which struck down the state's revised guidelines to provide reasonable oversight for non-public schools, Yaffed sent a letter urging the New York State Education Department (NYSED) to enact emergency regulations. Yaffed's letter includes affidavits from former yeshiva students about the devastating and debilitating effects of being denied a secular education.
Read the full letter attached.
Asked about it today on the Brian Lehrer Show, Governor Andrew Cuomo said:
"My attorneys are now talking with NYSED, reviewing the court's decision because it is vitally important that the law we passed be followed which is that the yeshivas are held to the substantial equivalency standard. But we have to make sure SED (State Education Department) can do its job."
Pursuant to Section 202(6) of the New York State Administrative Procedure Act ("Notice of Emergency Adoption"): "if an agency finds that the immediate adoption of a rule is necessary for the preservation of the . . . general welfare and that compliance with the requirements of subdivision one of this section [requiring the submission of a notice of proposed rulemaking and inviting public comments] would be contrary to the public interest, the agency may dispense with all or part of such requirements and adopt the rule on an emergency basis."
"The decades long, systematic neglect of yeshiva students is an absolute emergency that the state must take as seriously as the measles crisis. Thousands of students graduate from schools in New York every year without the ability to read or write in English, perform basic math, or understand the science behind vaccines. It's time to prioritize our children's wellbeing ahead of political interests and finally stand up for their rights under the law," said Naftuli Moster, Executive Director of Yaffed.
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 revised, minimal guidelines, established on November 20th, 2018 would've allowed:
- 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 early March, the New York State Association of Independent Schools filed a lawsuit 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 also filed two similar lawsuits claiming religious freedom from oversight. The judge did not rule on the basis of merit, but rather on procedural grounds.
In addition to opposing the new regulations via litigation, Agudath Israel is still 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.
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.