Religious Schools in New York Say They Won’t Cooperate With Department of Education’s New Guidelines on Curriculum

Leaders of religious schools in New York state, who long have operated under the same requirements as public schools, say they will not cooperate with strict new guidelines enforced by local school-district officials.

But no one is fooled by the state Department of Education’s new guidelines on how “religious and independent schools” operate, said the government watchdog Judicial Watch.

“The changes are aimed right at New York City’s freewheeling Orthodox Jewish seminaries, known as yeshivas,” Judicial Watch said. “More than 100,000 students attend yeshivas in New York City.”

The standard of “substantial equivalency” in education has been around since the 19th century. It allows private schools to educate their students as they see fit, provided the education is “substantially equivalent” to public schools.

But the state says those days are over.

“The new guidelines change the equation. Math must be taught every day. English, science, and social studies must be taught,” Judicial Watch said.

“Schools must provide samples of teaching schedules, textbooks, and lesson plans. Non-compliant schools risk withdrawal of funding for things like textbooks and transportation, and students ultimately could be forced to go to another school. Students that resist transfer risk being declared ‘truant’ and legal steps to challenge parental competency could follow. The new mandates will be enforced by inspections from local school district officials.”

The state already has announced “training” sessions for “nonpublic school leaders” so they can follow the new secular mandates.

“Every child has a fundamental right to receive a quality education,” Board of Regents Chancellor Betty A. Rosa said in a statement. “By providing these resources on the substantial equivalency of instruction in nonpublic schools, we are providing public and nonpublic school leaders with a roadmap to conduct these reviews. The process should be a collaborative effort that is a mutually beneficial learning process for leaders of both public and nonpublic schools resulting in appropriate educational opportunities for the children they serve.”

State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said that while “parents have a right to choose a nonpublic school,” she wants to make sure the students are taught what the state wants.

Click here to read more.