The ultra-Orthodox yeshivas will have to follow the rules that the New York Board of Regents passes unanimously.
Tuesday, the Board of Regents in New York voted unanimously to pass new rules that are meant to address long-standing claims that many ultra-Orthodox private schools are breaking state law by not giving their students a basic education.
The regulations have been in the works for years. They explain how to interpret and enforce a state law that says private schools must offer an education that is "substantially equivalent" to what is offered in public schools. On Monday, the Regents' Preschool to Twelfth-Grade Committee gave their approval.
The director of Yaffed, an organization that has been fighting for reform in Hasidic yeshivas, Naftuli Moster, called the passing of the regulations "a giant step forward" in making sure that all children who go to private schools get the education they are entitled to.
"This widespread breaking of the law and the egregious lack of education that followed were known to officials at every level for decades," said Moster.
The rules' approval is a big step in the long-running debate about what role state and local officials should play in regulating private schools that are accused of not meeting students' basic academic needs.
This debate became more important after a New York Times article talked about how Hasidic yeshivas, which serve about 50,000 students, were failing to teach their students and may have used physical punishment.
It's not clear yet if the new rules, which give private schools a number of "pathways" to show they're following state law, will be effective at cracking down on bad schools.
Schools can show they are following state law in a number of ways, such as getting approval from an independent accreditor or making enough progress on state-sanctioned standardized tests.
Schools can ask for a review from the local school district if they can't meet any of these requirements. For example, the city Education Department led a review that found 26 of the 28 yeshivas being looked into didn't meet standards.
Local school districts will still be in charge of enforcing the law in a big way.
Nathaniel Styer, a spokesman for the city Education Department, said, “We believe these regulations put an undue burden on our public school system,” but added “we will faithfully implement all NYSED regulations.”
Emily DeSantis, a spokeswoman for the State Education Department, said that the agency will "continue to work with all stakeholders as they try to follow the new rules."
Defenders of the yeshivas have been strongly against the rules from the beginning, and Tuesday's vote was criticized as an attack on religious freedom.
Parents for Educational and Religious Liberty in Schools, a group that supports yeshivas, said that the state's confirmation that it wants to tell private and religious schools what to teach and who to hire is very disappointing and something they don't agree with.
"Those who want the government to be in charge can go to public schools," the group said. "Parents who pay for their children to go to a private or parochial school do so because they believe in the mission and way of teaching at those schools."