New oversight rules for NY private schools, yeshivas expected to be approved

New oversight rules that would make it easier to crack down on religious and other private schools are expected to be approved by state education officials on Tuesday.

The New York State Board of Regents is set to vote on the guidelines, which unanimously sailed through committee on Monday.

The regulations would require that private schools provide instruction that’s “substantially equivalent” to what’s offered at their public counterparts.

Nonpublic schools would be subject to reviews by local education agencies, as well as less intrusive means to make sure they meet academic standards — such as department-approved exams or accreditors.

The rules, which apply to all private schools equally, have faced fierce backlash from those serving the state’s Hasidic Jewish community, who argue it’s an infringement on their right to a religious education.

Draft guidelines released earlier this year sparked 350,000 public comments since the spring, tens of thousands of which defended yeshivas, according to the latest state figures.

ultra-Orthodox Jewish families
The regulations require that private schools provide instruction that’s “substantially equivalent” to public schools.
AP/Bebeto Matthews

Jim Baldwin, senior deputy commissioner at the state education department, countered that the move “does not regulate religious instruction.”

“Religious studies may still be taught as the nonpublic school sees fit,” Baldwin told reporters ahead of the committee vote.

Those that fail to comply with the regulations risk being stripped of their school-designation, meaning they would lose public funding.

Officials declined to say whether the state would close a school that doesn’t meet the standards, while noting that one that is unrecognized by the state may struggle to recruit and retain students.

Hasidic Jewish community
The Hasidic Jewish community believes the requirement is an infringement on their right to a religious education.
William Farrington

Yeshiva advocates keen on maintaining the status quo criticized the state’s latest attempt at oversight.

“Those who want State control can choose the public schools,” read a statement from Parents for Educational And Religious Liberty in School. “Parents who pay for a private or parochial school education do so because they believe in the mission and educational approach of those schools’ leaders.”

Supporters of secular studies in yeshivas hailed the committee vote, with Naftuli Moster, founder of the group Young Advocates for Fair Education, calling it a “giant step forward in ensuring that all children attending non-public schools receive the education to which they are entitled .”

The vote follows a The New York Times report finding that some students at yeshivas have been denied basic education, such as in science or social studies, and subjected to corporal punishment — all while the schools reaped more than $1 billion in government funding in recent years .

yeshiva education
A yeshiva located in Flatbush, Brooklyn.
AP/Mark Lennihan

State education officials released a 142-page file this month summarizing the public comments and responding to the issues raised over the draft guidelines.

Those summaries, reviewed by The Post, included pushback from the New York City Department of Education — including that the regs fail to provide the agency with “clear definitions or definitive standards” to conduct reviews of the nonpublic schools.

An unnamed DOE rep called timelines for substantial equivalency determinations “insufficient” — and said penalties for the agency, as the entity responsible for making those determinations, are “draconian and misplaced.”

“We believe these regulations put an undue burden on our public school system,” said spokesperson Nathaniel Styer, while adding that the agency will still “faithfully implement” the state’s directives.

Eric Adams
Major Eric Adams is soley focused on the city’s review of the yeshiva education.
Daniel Williams McKnight

The state education department made no substantial revisions in response to the comments, though it did add flexibility for nonpublic schools demonstrating “good-faith progress” toward substantial equivalency.

Mayor Eric Adams, at an unrelated Manhattan press conference on student apprenticeships, said he was “not concerned” about the findings of the Times article — and that the city would finish its own review of local yeshiva education.

He added: “Any form of corporal punishment… is not acceptable,” and that parents should report such incidents to investigators.

Kathy Hochul
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul claims she has no say on the schooling decision.
Matthew McDermott

A previous city investigation was called into question when The Post revealed former Major Bill de Blasio was personally involved in a deal to delay a long-awaited report on yeshivas in exchange for majoral control over the city schools.

Gov. Kathy Hochul punted responsibility when asked about the Times investigation Monday, saying that the issue is “outside the purview of a governor.”

“There’s a regulatory process in place, but the governor’s office has nothing to do with this,” said Hochul. “But I know that the local officials will work with this, and they need to do the right thing to make sure that every child has a good education.”