01 Jun State will introduce new oversight plan for private schools
Photo: Rick Karlin/Times Union
The state Education Department won’t be appealing a court ruling that halted a plan for academic inspections of non-public schools such as Jewish yeshivas, Catholic schools and private academies.
Instead, it will go through a months-long rulemaking process which will allow for public comments before finalizing a new inspection plan.
“By following the State Administrative Procedure Act process, we are addressing the Court’s concerns,” state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said Friday in announcing the plan.
In April, Albany County state Supreme Court Justice Christina Ryba halted the inspection plan, which had been announced last November but which hadn’t yet started. The judge concluded that the inspections amounted to new regulations rather than guidelines and were therefore subject to the Administrative Procedure Act, which allows for public input.
Elia put the inspections in place after lawmakers a year ago passed legislation calling for more oversight. That came after a yeshiva graduate, Naftali Moster had gone to court contending he didn’t receive a sound education. Critics have said some of the most conservative yeshivas allow young men to graduate with little knowledge of math, science, history or English. Yeshivas often teach in Yiddish and they focus on study of the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament and its interpretations.
The Education Department couldn’t just inspect yeshivas since that would amount to religious profiling, so officials said they would begin inspections of all non-public schools, which prompted a lawsuit by the various types of schools.
Almost all of these schools get at least some public support, in the form of transportation services or textbooks, so they have to conform to basic educational requirements.
These schools are supposed to provide an education that is “substantially equivalent” to that offered in public schools. While there has long been a law requiring this, there was no real enforcement prior to the lawsuit.
Under the proposal, local school boards would conduct surveys to ensure the non-public schools were meeting requirements.
The new proposed rules will be published in the State Register on July 3 and the public comment period will run through Sept. 2.
The Board of Regents is expected to take up the final regulations in the fall.
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