NY Yeshiva groups seek injunction against education regulations

By Reuvain Borchardt

NEW YORK — Yeshiva groups have filed a motion for a preliminary injunction against New York state’s new regulations on the private school curriculum, arguing that the regulations violate the constitutional rights of Orthodox Jewish families as well as education laws of State.

Parents “have a fundamental right to control the upbringing and education of their children, but the new regulations ignore their constitutionally protected interest by handing over control of yeshivas’ curriculum and faculty to local school authorities,” reads -on in the petition, filed Monday in the state Supreme Court. by Parents for Educational and Religious Liberty in Schools (PEARLS), Agudath Israel of America, and Torah Umesorah; and Yeshivas Rabbi Chaim Berlin, Torah Vodaath, Tifereth Jerusalem, Rabbi Jacob Joseph and Ch’san Sofer.

The rule passed the Board of Regents in September this year, a decade after some Hasidic yeshiva graduates first claimed that their secular education did not sufficiently prepare students to earn a living and participate in contemporary society. But yeshiva advocates have argued that parents should have the autonomy to decide on their children’s education in a manner consistent with their religious beliefs, that the totality of a yeshiva’s education is superior to that offered in public schools and that yeshiva graduates live more productive lives than public schools. – school graduates.

State law has required for more than a century that the secular curriculum in private schools be “at least substantially equivalent” to that offered in public schools, but the law has never defined precisely how the substantial equivalence is determined.

The new regulations require all private schools to prove that they provide a substantially equivalent education, via one of many routes, including: having a high school that offers Regents exams, being accredited by a recognized accrediting body, or using SED-approved assessments. that show students’ academic progress. If a school cannot qualify by one of these methods, it can prove substantial equivalence by the method that yeshivas consider the most intrusive: the school having its curriculum reviewed and approved by the local education authority ( LSA), who is the Chancellor of Schools in New York. and the local school board elsewhere.

LSA exams would examine not only whether schools are teaching the core subjects of math, science, social studies and English, but also other subjects including patriotism and citizenship; the meaning and effect of the provisions of the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution and the New York State Constitution and amendments thereto; New York State History and Civics; physical education; health education relating to the abuse of alcohol, drugs and tobacco; road safety and traffic regulations; fire drills, fire and arson prevention and injury prevention, and use of CPR and AED.

The proposed settlement was first announced last March, kicking off a mandatory 60-day public comment period, which generated more than 350,000 comments, the vast majority from graduates of the yeshiva opposing the settlement. But the bylaws, virtually unchanged, were then put to the vote of the Board of Regents in September, passed unanimously and with little debate at the Board of Regents meeting.

“The public consultation process was nothing more than a sham,” the yeshiva groups claim in their Monday filing, “designed by the NYSED [the New York State Education Department] lead to the adoption of the regulation exactly as proposed, without any substantive revision. The NYSED simply dismissed each of the criticisms, suggestions, and proposals submitted by the public, without addressing the many important issues they raised.

“This was what the NYSED had intended all along: to promulgate the new regulations as originally proposed, regardless of public comments received and alternatives offered. NYSED treated the public comment period not as a means to an end – to consider criticisms and alternatives – but as an end in itself. Refusing to accept any revision or alternatives from the thousands offered was NYSED’s goal for the public comment period, and not the result of his examination.

Plaintiffs also allege that the regulations violate a 1948 state court precedent by effectively enacting a licensing system for private schools, and that the regulations are inconsistent with and stricter than public school laws. “In particular, the new regulations require instruction to be in English for all Common Core subjects, even though many public schools with designated ‘bilingual programs’ are permitted to teach the vast majority of their instruction in one language. other than English,” the suit said. “Thus, in the supposed pursuit of ‘equivalence,’ the new regulations impose more restrictive standards on non-public schools than on public schools.”

Applicants filed a lawsuit against the regulations last month. The new case filed Monday seeks a preliminary injunction against regulation while the case progresses through the courts.

Monday’s filing also includes affidavits from Rabbanim and other community leaders regarding the impact of the proposed regulations on yeshivas.

Harav Israel Reisman, Rosh Yeshivah of Torah Vodaath, one of the oldest yeshivas in the United States, states in his affidavit that the new regulations “would require YTV to change its character and identity”. By forcing the yeshiva to reduce its religious study hours to accommodate the increased number of hours of secular subjects, and by giving the SED the ability to determine who can serve as a qualified yeshiva teacher, the regulation would result in the Torah Vodaath “los”.[ing] the reputation for religious education that we have carefully nurtured for a century.

“YTV is quite proud of the professional successes that so many of its graduates have achieved in medicine, law, accounting, technology, healthcare and so many other fields,” Rabbi Reisman writes. “Yet our satisfaction derives not from their temporal accomplishments but from the fact that their secular accomplishments are grounded in religious beliefs, values, and practices.”

“The teaching of the Yeshivah is remarkably effective in providing the tools necessary for success in the secular world,” reads an affidavit from Brooklyn Law School professor Aaron Twerski, who was formerly Dean of Hofstra Law School, citing ” emphasis on ethics and moral development, as well as cultural identity, traditions and cohesion”, and “critical thinking and analytical skills that far exceed those acquired by students in traditional schools”. Professor Twerski lists a multitude of industries and fields in which Hasidic yeshiva graduates have found success and prominence and states, “Indeed, I would challenge any large-scale secular education system to match the results obtained by our schools.

Avraham Weinstock, Agudath Israel’s chief of staff, said in his affidavit that the new regulations will “almost exclusively” affect yeshivas, since nearly all non-yeshivas offer Regents exams or are already accredited, while the many yeshivas who are not tied to a secondary school that offers Regents exams will be required to take the LSA exam.

Professor Moshe Krakowski of Yeshiva University’s Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration, whose research has focused on “how minority religious communities perpetuate their religious worldview within societies that operate under religious assumptions and cultural differences,” his affidavit asserts that “the yeshiva education promotes many of the critically important principles of learning that I studied as a doctoral student, to a degree that would shame to many college and graduate students.

“The state should not interfere in the internal religious life of a flourishing community. Haredim and Hasidim are good citizens, they make a good living and they contribute to society in countless ways,” Professor Krakowski writes. “These regulations will force religious change in large segments of the Orthodox Jewish community. They would force Haredim out of New York State or risk seeing their entire religious life wiped out in an act of cultural genocide.

An SED spokesman said Hamodia that the SED would not comment on ongoing litigation.

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Plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction is available here

Affidavit of Harav Yisroel Reisman is available here

Affidavit of Professor Aaron Twerski is available here

Affidavit of Professor Moshe Krakowski is available here

Affidavit of Avraham Weinstock is available here

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