Religious and other private schools in New York state won an important victory last week when a state judge invalidated proposed guidelines for monitoring private schools.
“We join with the more than 1,000 private schools that challenged the new guidelines in applauding the state Supreme Court’s decision declaring the new State Education Department guidelines null and void,” said Avi Schick, an attorney for Parents for Educational and Religious Liberty in Schools (PEARLS), an organization committed to promoting yeshiva, or orthodox Jewish education.
New York’s Education Department in November proposed the rules in response to complaints that some yeshivas, in particular, weren’t spending sufficient time on proper English instruction, as well as science and history. Primarily taught in Yiddish, yeshiva education covers elementary and secondary grades and promotes the importance of strong communities, as well as teaching a deep respect for the morals and history of the Jewish faith and culture.
The guidelines would have required visits by a local public school staff member to yeshivas and all other private schools once every five years to determine if the schools were providing sufficient instruction in state-mandated subjects.
PEARLS and other groups sued over the regulations in March, arguing that they were unconstitutional and that the state Education Department lacked the authority to impose them. Other plaintiffs included groups representing the state’s private Catholic schools, as well as its nonreligious ones.
State Supreme Court Judge Christina Ryba stopped short of ruling that the regulations violated the state’s constitutional protections for religious freedom, instead stating that the guidelines were not implemented in compliance with the State Administrative Procedure Act.
Mark Lauria, executive director of the New York State Association of Independent Schools, called the regulations ill-conceived, adding, “We very much appreciate that the judge recognized the merits of our legal arguments.” —L.E.