Jewish Press readers are aware of the long running battle between the New York State Education Department and the yeshiva community. For more than six years, the state has been trying to assert greater control over the curriculum and faculty at religious schools. While they have been largely kept at bay, the state continues to challenge the autonomy and independence of yeshivas.

The next chapter in the state’s efforts will play out in an Albany courtroom next week. The state has appealed a decision of the Albany Supreme Court that ruled in favor of the yeshivas last year and held that the state went too far in enacting its private school regulations.


In particular, Justice Christina Ryba held that “the Compulsory Education Law does not authorize or contemplate the imposition of penalties or other consequences upon a nonpublic school that has been found to not provide substantially equivalent instruction.”

Justice Ryba therefore struck from the State Education Department’s private school regulations the provision that authorized the state and local school districts to declare that “a nonpublic school shall no longer be deemed a school which provides compulsory education” and required parents to “completely unenroll their children from a nonpublic school” that does not meet all of the state’s new standards. The court concluded that this would be “inconsistent with the Legislative goal of the Compulsory Education Law and exceeds the rule-making authority” of the State Education Department.

The State Education Department appealed this ruling, and the Appellate Division will hear oral arguments next week. In a notable development, the Orthodox Union, the Council of Catholic School Superintendents and the Bruderhof community submitted an amicus brief urging the appellate court to uphold Justice Ryba’s decision. They take strong issue with the State’s arguments, and explain how the State Education Department is trampling on fundamental religious rights.

The involvement of these three groups also puts to rest the erroneous claim that the State’s regulations of private schools are benign and acceptable to all but a small fringe group. PEARLS, Torah Umesorah, and Agudath Israel serve as the lead petitioners in the lawsuit challenging the state’s regulations. With the addition of the OU, the Catholic school community and Christian schools, it is clear that the regulations are widely viewed as unacceptable by the entire religious school community. Additional and persuasive amicus briefs were submitted by the Chabad and Bobov communities.

It is clear to us that Justice Ryba was correct when she ruled that the State Education Department regulations went way too far. We are confident that if the Appellate Division carefully examines the law, they will see it the same way.

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