While there has been an impressive number of comments submitted during the public comment period to the NYS Education Department on their proposed rules for non-public schools, the process is far from over. The Jewish Press has been told by a DOE spokesperson that there were 140,000 emailed comments, in addition to which there were numerous paper comments that have yet to be counted. But we cannot drop the ball and fail to be involved in what comes next. The DOE is not simply going to adopt the sentiments of the majority of the commenters.
The Jewish Press has also been told by the DOE that once the final tallies are made, Sec. 202 (4-a) of the New York State Administrative Procedures Act will kick in. That section provides that after the procedures for soliciting public comment have been implemented by a public agency, “the agency shall make available to the public an assessment of public comment…which shall contain “a summary and an analysis of the issues raised and significant alternatives suggested,” “a statement of the reasons why any significant alternatives were not incorporated into the rule,” and “a description of any changes made in the rule as a result of [the] comments.”
But when we asked, “Is it the agency’s position that the assessment and analysis required by SAPA does not require consideration of the volume of comments for and against, or [public disclosure of the volume for and against]?”
The DOE spokesperson replied, “There is no provision in SAPA requiring a tally of the comments as you asked.”
The Jewish Press intends to continue to be in contact with the DOE to ensure as much transparency as possible. In addition to seeing generally how achievement in the non-public schools and public schools are compared, we will be particularly interested in seeing whether or not the value of a Torah education to a school’s overall educational program was seriously considered and given its due weight. And the Jewish Press is fully prepared to seek data through the use of the freedom of information laws (FOIL).