New York State rekindles fight over private-school curriculum standard

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The fight over school independence is set to flare once again.

The state is reviving its plan to hold private-school curriculum to public-school standards.

The New York State Education Department has announced a series of public meetings in the coming months as it develops a “substantial equivalency” curricular policy for religious and private schools.

Arguing that more oversight would ensure that all schools satisfy basic educational guidelines, the state floated a plan last year that would have given officials greater control over everything from curriculums to hiring.

The proposal would have allowed public school authorities to vet independent schools for compliance with state requirements, and schools deemed to be in violation would be subject to penalties including closure.

But the state shelved that plan after an outpouring of resistance from parents and private school administrators, who argued that their independence was being trampled.

NYSED is now reviving the plan and will hold six virtual meetings for individual regions across the state beginning later this month.

“All children, regardless of their race or religious beliefs, deserve access to a high-quality education that will allow them to meet their full potential,” said Interim Commissioner Betty A. Rosa in a statement last week. “As we begin the process of engaging our partners in the field, we anticipate constructive and thoughtful discussions to develop an inclusive framework for determining substantial equivalence for the students of New York State.”

Calls for more government control over private schools originated with increasingly vocal critics of Jewish schools.

They argue that yeshivas are failing to provide basic secular education in favor of religious immersion — an approach, they assert, that leaves students ill-prepared after graduation.

The sector pushed back on the state’s plans, countering that Jewish parents have the right to prioritize religious education for their kids.

Private schools — including elite Manhattan institutions — also resisted the state’s proposal.

The New York State Association of Independent Schools filed a lawsuit in Albany Supreme Court in arguing that the state’s plan would compromise the very independence that makes them attractive to parents.

“The Board and I are committed to leading an educational system where all learning environments, whether public or private, respect and affirm students’ racial, linguistic, cultural and religious identities, and we look forward to hearing the thoughtful input from educational leaders across the state throughout this endeavor,” said NYSED Vice Chancellor T. Andrew Brown in a statement.

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