Pearl River, NY -- (7/25/16) Tom DePrisco, candidate for the 38th Senate District in New York, today released a statement regarding substantially equivalent education in nonpublic schools.
I find it discouraging that there are flaws in New York State academic standards regarding nonpublic schools. This certainly is not an indictment of all nonpublic schools.
Existing NYS education law does not mandate the instruction of mathematics, science, and world history in nonpublic high schools. Nonpublic schools are not required to register with the NYS Board of Regents. Only registered nonpublic schools are required to meet the same educational standards as public schools.
Recently, several online petitions have been created to compel the New York State Education Department to ensure that all students attending nonpublic schools receive “substantially equivalent” educations as students attending public schools. One group called YAFFED (Young Advocates for Fair Education) is particularly concerned with the quality of education provided at many Hasidic and ultra-Orthodox yeshivas. The founder of YAFFED, Naftuli Moster, graduated from a yeshiva. Additionally, a class action lawsuit has been filed by former students and parents of students claiming forty of these schools failed to properly educate and prepare their students with skills necessary to obtain employment thus potentially creating generations of people who are dependent on government assistance.
Although Education Law 3204 states that instruction provided in nonpublic schools must be at least “substantially equivalent” to the instruction given in the public schools of the district of residence, not every nonpublic school is required to meet the same educational standards as public schools. Interestingly enough, “nonpublic schools may, but are not required to, be registered with the NYS Board of Regents. The Board of Regents oversees the NYS Department of Education. Only registered nonpublic schools must meet the same educational standards as public schools and may award diplomas and administer Regents exams.
89 out of approximately 1,900 nonpublic schools listed on the NYSED website are labeled as “not registered”. 11 of these schools are in Rockland County; 31 in Brooklyn, 3 in Orange County, 3 in Manhattan, 2 in Westchester; 2 in Nassau, 1 in Putnam, and 1 in Suffolk. The remaining 35 schools are located throughout the entire state.
NYS Education Law affixes the responsibility to boards of education to determine whether nonpublic schools are providing substantially equivalent instruction. However, the NYS Department of Education advises local boards of education to accept the nonpublic school’s registration with the Board of Regents as “evidence of a substantially equivalent program of instruction.”
Through the eighth grade, nonpublic schools must provide instruction in the same areas as public schools: math, reading, spelling, writing, English language, geography, United States history, civics, hygiene, physical education, science, and the history of New York State. Only the following classes are required for nonpublic high schools: English language, civics, hygiene, physical education, American History (specifically the principles of government proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence and established by the U.S. Constitution), patriotism, citizenship and human rights, highway safety, and traffic regulations.
I will be recommending to the Board of Regents, Education Commissioner, and members of the State Legislature that these nonpublic school academic requirements be thoroughly reviewed and amended to ensure that our nonpublic school students are properly prepared educationally, by being offered substantially equivalent courses and instruction as provided in public schools, so they may have viable and sustainable employment opportunities. Additionally, the Board of Regents should review its guidelines involving registration of nonpublic schools. In the interim, school districts which have non-registered nonpublic schools should ensure those schools are providing substantially equivalent instruction."
Tom DePrisco is a resident of Pearl River. He serves as the Vice President of the Pearl River School District School Board and the Rockland County School Boards Association. For more information visit www.TomDePrisco.com.