On Tuesday, the New York State Board of Regents took the first step toward mandating that private schools in the state provide evidence that they are instructing students in English, mathematics, and other fundamental disciplines; otherwise, they run the danger of losing government money.
The adoption of the new rules by the board, which oversees the state education department, could prove to be a watershed moment for Hasidic Jewish religious schools. For years, these schools have essentially been free to offer little or no secular instruction while still collecting public money. The adoption of the new rules by the board, which oversees the state education department, could prove to be a watershed moment for these schools.
State education officials had been considering the measure for years, and the vote came days after The New York Times reported that more than 100 boys’ schools run by the Hasidic Jewish community have collected $1 billion in public funding in recent years but have deprived generations of students of a basic education. According to the findings of The Times’ investigation, the gender-segregated schools, which educate more than 50,000 boys throughout Brooklyn and the lower Hudson Valley, have also consistently imposed order with the use of physical punishment.
At least the third such set of regulations has been drafted by the board since 2018, when state officials set out to clarify how to enforce a law that is over a century old and requires private schools to provide an education comparable to that which is offered in public schools. The rules that were enacted on Tuesday were at least the third such set of regulations. The procedure was initiated when the state received complaints against Hasidic institutions, which are also known as yeshivas. The accusations came from former students and parents who said that the schools did not offer a fundamentally secular education for their children.
But whether the standards will have an impact will depend on enforcement, and it will mostly leave to local school districts to police the recommendations. Because of this, there is a chance that they will not be successful or that they will be implemented unevenly.
The regulations that were enacted on Tuesday do not, in contrast to earlier iterations of the guidelines, establish any minimum limits for the amounts of teaching time that must be spent in secular courses. In addition, they do not provide a definite deadline for institutions who do not provide fundamental education to bring themselves into conformity with the criteria for education.
Instead, they make it possible for the schools to continue operating without facing any consequences, but only if education authorities are satisfied that the school is making a sincere attempt to improve. Officials from the state have not outlined what a campaign of this kind would entail.
Officials have said that local school districts, rather than individual educational facilities, may be subject to monetary sanctions, despite the fact that it is possible for educational institutions to lose their financing. And the authorities did not comment on whether or not any school may be shut down for breaking the law.
Since the beginning of this decade, Mr. Moster and other individuals have been making their voices heard over this matter; nevertheless, local and state authorities have refrained from taking action, in part due to the influence of Hasidic community leaders. These leaders have exerted pressure on their supporters to vote as a unified front and have elevated the protection of the schools to the position of highest political importance for themselves.
As a result of the guidelines that were established on Tuesday, educational institutions now have a selection of alternatives from which to choose in order to show that they are in accordance with the law. They are able to demonstrate growth on state standardised examinations, despite the fact that The Times discovered that Hasidic boys’ schools had among of the worst test results in the whole state.
It is also possible for schools to demonstrate compliance by obtaining accreditation from an outside organisation that has been granted approval. This option has caused some activists to express concern because they are afraid that the Hasidic community may be able to establish its own accreditation agencies.
Schools that are unable to provide evidence that they are in compliance with the law are required to give local school district officials permission to visit their campuses by the summer of 2025. During these visits, the officials will evaluate whether or not the schools are providing the requisite level of education to their students.