You may have heard that the New York State Education Department recently published proposed Regulations about “substantial equivalency of instruction” required for students attending nonpublic schools.

This can have severe ramifications for yeshivos and day schools across the board in NYS, so we wanted to provide some answers to common questions we are receiving about this serious development.

Q: How might the proposed regulations affect my child’s yeshiva?

A: The Regulations, on their face, may require schools to make major adjustments to their limudei kodesh and secular programming. 

For example, the proposed regulations specify 1) the number of required hours – as many as 4-5 hours per day, depending on grade level; 2) more than 12 required subjects, including, at the lower elementary level, consumer and family science, visual arts, theater, media arts, career development, occupational studies, etc.; 3) assessment of teachers to an undefined standard.

Results, grades, competencies, graduation rates, or other factors regarding equivalency to public schools are not taken into account for these purposes. 

To view the proposed Regulation click here.

Q: Didn’t the court already strike down the SED Guidelines 3 months ago?

A: Yes, those Guidelines were thrown out by the NY State Supreme Court in response to lawsuits brought by Agudath Israel, PEARLS, Torah Umesorah, and other groups. However, the court struck down the Guidelines because the State Education Department failed to comply with the technical requirements for new rulemaking. By publishing its “proposed Regulations” in the NYS Register, SED has now started an “official” process in compliance with those requirements.

Q: How do the new proposed Regulations differ from the previous Guidelines??

A: The new Regulations are substantially identical to the previous Guidelines.

Q: What happens now?

A: There is a sixty day public comment period (until September 2) when individuals can voice their concerns regarding these proposed regulations. At the conclusion of the process, the Regulations come before the Board of Regents for a vote, expected this fall.

Q: I heard that State Education Commissioner Elia resigned earlier this week. Does that mean this is over?

A: No. The impact of Commissioner's Elia's resignation on this issue is still to be determined, but the proposed Regulations have already been published and the comment period is in place.

Q: What is being done to fight for parents who choose, and sacrifice dearly, for their children to attend yeshivos?

A: The Agudah has been working with organizations in the community - PEARLS and Torah Umesorah, among others - to oppose the newest incarnation of the state's attempt to control yeshivos. It should be noted that the Catholic and NYSAIS independent schools (which, together with Jewish schools, form the majority of nonpublic schools in NYS) also strongly oppose these regulations.

Q: Is there anything I can do?

A: Yes! SED is required, by law, to read comments submitted. While many have previously signed petitions, which is important, these comments are required to be read by law. We have set up a system, where, with just a few clicks, you can voice your opinion on this critical matter.

Q: I live in Chicago, but the overreach of these regulations concerns me. May I register my comment?

A: The regulations do not restrict comments to NYS residents. 

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Parsha Hashavua
Va'Eschanan: Looking Inward

 Much has been written about the relatively minor differences between the Aseres Hadibros given by Hashem in Parshas Yisro and those repeated in this weeks Parsha.  Some of the commentaries add beautiful thoughts and reasons for these distinctions.  Nevertheless, we cannot lose sight of the fact that in something as significant as the Aseres Hadibros, each word, each letter requires the utmost concentration in study and analysis so that any slight changes are not glossed over or Chas V'Shalom, lost on us. 

            In the final commandment, Lo Sachmod, there are three such changes.  First, in this weeks Parsha we are told initially “not to covet your neighbors wife and not to desire your friends house”. (Vaeschanan, 5:18) In Yisro however, we are first told not to covet your neighbors house and then not to covet his wife. (Yisro 20:14)  Further, in this weeks prohibition an additional instruction of “not desiring” is added to the already existing one of not to “covet”[1].  Finally, in this weeks Parsha, an additional example of things we shall not covet is added to the list of house, wife, servants, donkeys, oxen and all that he has.  Specifically, in this week we add “his field”.  Relatively small differences but significant nonetheless.  What is the Torah trying to tell us with these subtle changes?

            In order to appreciate these variances, it is important, as always, to take in the context and the audience  to whom the commandments were addressed.  In Shemos, Bnei Yisroel were just recently taken out of Mitzrayim.  Their most important focus was on becoming individuals again, with their own material processions, instead of slaves.  Hence the emphasis on your neighbors “house”.  Indeed, the mepharshim point out that the men in Mitzrayim were so worn out from their hard work as slaves that their wives had to go out into the fields to entice them to have children.  It's no wonder that coveting their neighbors wife was relegated to second position.  This is born out all the more by the inclusion in our Parsha of not coveting his “field”.  Only now, as Klal Yisroel was preparing to enter Eretz Yisroel and have land of their own, was this specification germane. 

            There is a profound lesson here to be absorbed.  When B'nei Yisroel left Mitzrayim, their existence as slaves until then left them with almost nothing to covet.  Developing a sense of self or identifying possessions was what was desired.  Now, after 40 years of having their daily needs taken care of by Hashem, their minds were freed to wander about other more expansive wants.  Therefore, they were cautioned against more base and more deplorable thoughts.  Human nature is such that the more we have, the more we want.  We need not give in to this destructive instinct.  Quite the opposite.  By simply taking time to appreciate what we have we can counter this most base of instincts.  We all have good in our lives.  We also all have challenges. Every day we need to appreciate what we have and take the time to enjoy and bask in it, instead of looking at what is in someone else’s basket.                                                                                      

[1]      The Ramban distinguishes coveting from desiring in that coveting means actually taking certain steps to acquiring that which one wants whereas desiring is just the thought of the acquisition.

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