UPDATE: The OU Reports On Negotiations With the NY Education Department

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50 Responses

  1. Shlomo Dayan says:

    Which part of this clarification was negotiated? Seems like a rather simple clarification coming on the heels of needless fearmongering.

  2. David Ohsie says:

    “Second, we are extremely concerned that the locus of enforcement authority with respect to State mandates sits with local school authorities.”

    The guidance is quite clear that the any decisions for the Yehsivas is made at the state level: “The local school authority will use the evaluation criteria to make a recommendation to the Commissioner of Education. The Commissioner shall be the entity that determines whether the nonpublic elementary and middle schools are substantially equivalent.”

  3. Flora says:

    There are no negotiations. I didn’t realize you were a spin doctor. Are you intentionally trying to insinuate that the aguda was right and now has heroically got the state to back off? The state is simply clarifying that 2 units is over 2 or 4 years, not over 1 year like the aguda misinterpreted. Change the title of this to…”he OU Reports On Clarification of NY Education Department standards…” I mean seriously.

  4. Dovid Fields says:

    There are a few important points of note:

    1. This statement was released by the OU, not the Agudah. It is clear that the OU was working diligently and through proper political channels to address this issue, despite their declination to bang the drums of war.

    2. The State responded to the OU, not to the Agudah. The screaming, fear mongering and demagoguery of the Agudah was – so far – ignored by the State. The responsible and diligent work by the OU achieved the desired result.

    3. The clarification issued was indeed necessary, but if you read the actual regulations, it is clear – and was all along – that the claim with respect to 7 hours was simply untrue.

    4. Gedolei yisroel for the Agudah’s camp were placed in positions to make statements that are (and always were) untrue. They are owed an apology.

    5. This clarification, confirming that the regulations impose no draconian obligations on the yeshiva system in terms of the hours of secular studies required, is in fact bad news for Agudah and worse news for the chassidish yeshivas. The justification for the hysteria was the [false] claim that the regulations will require 7 hours of instruction per day. Now that this issue has been put to rest, it will be very difficult to get the non-chassidic crowd worked up yet again for a much smaller threat, and certainly for those that threaten only the chassidic world.

    6. As a community, there is a lesson to be learned. Before we embark on a campaign encouraging mass hysteria, telling parents that by February they will go to jail, and comparing the State of New York to the Greeks in the chanuka story (see front page of the FJJ) we should be sure that our facts are correct and our approach is reasoned. In this case, at least with respect to organizations other than the OU, those assurances were sorely lacking.

    Intelligence and wisdom are separate qualities. We must use both.

  5. Sam Steingold says:

    Why are they formulating requirement in terms of instruction hours rather than mandating annual testing for all students of all schools, private and public?

  6. Steve Brizel says:

    Changes in legislation that seem innocuous when passed not infrequently have significant consequences. The statute in question Education Law 3402(2) until the recent amendment stated that students could attend and get degrees from yeshivos, etc on the grounds that the secular curriculum was the “substantial equivalent” of secular high school education. The recent amendment which was passed under the radar authorized NYSDE to determine whether the “substantial equivalent” did so in fact and exist and promulgate regulations. Legislative history tells yu who was in favor of the legislation-I would suggest that an alliance of the teachers’ unions, educational establishment and those groups that have litigated against any assistance to yeshivos together with their useful allies, the cottage industry of vocal OTD and Shoneh UParush individuals , were in favor of it. Regulators like to issue regulations and increase their oversight as part of their under a seemingly objective agenda that often masks a strongly ideological agenda-we should take the view that if the NYSED is looking at the Chasidic communities mosdos, it will inevitably move to the yeshivishe and MO schools as well. That concern should not be dismissed as “needless fearmongering” nor as not having a strong bias against the yeshiva and parochial school system

  7. Bob Miller says:

    Maybe some of our yeshiva staff or students should help the guideline writers with English composition. Clarity from the start would have saved many people much bother.

    That said, don’t discount the potential for greater interference down the road unless solid safeguards are put in place. Right now, how vulnerable are our elementary and high schools outside the OU / Teach NYS network? They vary from one another in educational philosophy.

  8. David Ohsie says:

    If I was a better person my first comment should have been: Thank you R Adlerstein for disseminating information to counter the fear, uncertainty and doubt that was being spread around by various groups with their own agendas. The main concern here should be for those children who are simply not receiving an adequate secular education and coming out of high school illiterate in English. This is not something that we
    in the frum community should allow to happen to our kids.

  9. Charlie Hall says:

    “We have been, and remain extremely concerned by state regulation of Yeshiva and day school curriculum. ”

    The State of New York has regulated all educational institutions in the state, including private and religious schools, since 1784. (That is not a typo.) You can’t legally simply open a school without permission. Donald Trump did that and paid a $25 million fine as a result.

    I have personal experience with this. The regulatory process is quite rigorous and it is not trivial to get approved. The Albert Einstein College of Medicine separated from Yeshiva University administratively in September 2015 but only recently obtained all approvals to become a freestanding degree granting institution and that will take effect only as of January 1, 2019.

  10. Steve Berman says:

    David Ohsie
    This was never questioned. However, local interference is a problem for numerous reasons. Here is an excerpt from an article discussing the Catholic boycott of the rules.
    “A review by local public school officials and a vote at a public meeting of a locally elected public school board, as is called for in the guidance, practically guarantees inconsistency and subjectivity,” reads part of the letter, which was obtained by the Times Union.
    Local school systems provide assistance to parochial schools by offering bus and nursing services among other things. That creates an expense for districts that are constantly watching their budgets. Combine that with the shrinking population of students attending both public and Catholic schools in much of the state, and there is a built-in potential for conflicts of interest when it comes to inspections, say the superintendents.
    It is interesting that the Catholic Archdiocese has more fore thought then many of the commentators here.

  11. D K says:

    Better off, but not quite safe yet…
    There’s more than just the 7 hour requirement going on here…
    see: https://hamodia.com/2018/12/19/ny-ed-dept-ignores-main-concerns-updates-study-guidelines/

  12. Charnie says:

    Do we have any assurances that down the line we won’t be pushed by NYSED to include some of their requirements such as sex ed and LGBTQ issues?

  13. Steve Berman says:

    A slight correction on the math
    Since most Brooklyn Yeshivos only have secular studies 4 days a week, it comes out to 180 minutes per day Monday – Thursday.

  14. Reb Yid says:

    re: The “Open Letter” just posted on CC.

    17.5 hours of general studies per week is too much?

    You won’t get too much sympathy on that score.

  15. Steve Brizel says:

    Lets face reality-Section 3402 of the Education Law was amended to eliminate the presumption of sufficient compliance and to authorize the NYSED to determine whether or not sufficient compliance in fact existed. Ask yourself which groups that have a vested interest in the current system of public education and have always been hostile to yeshivos and parochial schools as well as charter schools were behind the change which snuck in under the radar until the issuance of regulations.

  16. BK says:

    Did this report not just say all the assurances were verbal and not in writing? How “re assuring” is that????? And what about How orWhich requirements can be met in Judaic studies??? These, the OU report says are concerns.

  17. Nesanel Lerman says:

    While there seems to be a general sense in the comments here that the Agudah is shrill and extreme in its response, I would suggest that one listen to their official position. I think it’s instructive. It can be found here, https://vimeo.com/306479119 . In many ways it’s similar to the positions expressed in this article. Kudos to TEACH NYS for achieving this clarification.

    As was noted, it’s very clear the clarification was NOT the intent of the original guidance. The original guidance meant what it said. They did not care if no room were left for religious schools to preserve their character or priorities of education. It may very well be that the response of outrage to these guidelines was pivotal in getting the NYSED to back off.

    And, as noted, the concern of the larger threat to autonomy still very much looms over our schools.

  18. Chuck says:

    I address this to Dovid Fields, but it seems to apply equally to the other commenters.
    I don’t want to get into a debate about your other points, but I have no idea what you’re talking about in point #3. How can you possibly say that it was clear all along that the seven hours per day was inaccurate and that the Aguda got it wrong? Did you read the Guidelines? It says quite clearly that for grades 5-8 there are 6 hours of instruction per week for each of the four core subjects, plus an additional amount of time for other subjects.
    The clarification is obviously quite welcome, but it is ridiculous to say that the guidelines were simply misread. In its present language there is absolutely no possibility of interpreting it the way the Education Department is now explaining it.

  19. Dovid Fields says:

    Chuck – I read every word of the (binding) regulations and the (non-binding) Appendix in the toolkit, referred to popularly as the guidelines. Appendix A cites the regulations directly. It was, admittedly, poorly drafted and in need of clarification. However, it could just as easily have been interpreted to mean two units over four years (grades 5-8) as opposed to one year. Further, reading it together with the regulations makes it crystal clear that there is no – and was no – 7 hour requirement. Nobody other than Agudah claimed as much, including the church.

    As an aside, I’m utterly stunned that we have seen no formal (or even informal) release of this clarification. After weeks of hysteria and outrage, are we to believe that an informal, unpublished, anonymous clarification issued to an unknown party has somehow resolved this great threat to our very existence? Something here does not add up.

  20. Steve Berman says:

    Reb Yid
    Is there a correlation between amount of secular studies and test results?
    Because based on this analysis http://www.jewishpress.com/news/us-news/ny/regents-scores/2018/12/12/
    I would say that’s going to be a hard sell.
    It also seems that the schools with less focus on secular studies have a better chance of graduating truly frum and inspired jews (see my posts in the other thread).
    Lets all be real
    When your kids come home from Trig class and ask you “why do we need to learn this?”, do you have a great answer? I don’t . I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they will promptly forget the knowledge and in all likelihood never need it again. Can you say the same about torah?
    A huge percentage of my secular studies was an absolute waste of my time. In high school my time was wasted with trig and others (FYI I had a 92 average on my 3 regents math scores, even in a yeshiva that barely tolerated secular studies) . In college with greek literature. Would any doctor/dentist here like to defend the need for Organic chemistry I and II? what about bio? Was dissecting gerbils relevant to your life/future schooling? What about the five times you needed to memorize (and be tested on) the krebs cycle ?
    Secular knowledge for knowledge sake is not a torah value.

    • Decades ago, I sat with a small group of people in a kabolas panim for someone who even back then was a famous figure in the yeshiva world. (I will not name him, in order to protect the guilty 🙂 ) The principal of a local school made the points that you did, complaining that the state was forcing him to waste valuable classroom time on things that no student would ever use. The famous figure responded, “I don’t know about that. I’ve never learned anything that I was not able to find a place to use later in life.” That certainly has been my experience. Maybe if more in our community would memorize the Krebs cycle and study a bit of organic chemistry, they would be better protected against the inanity of New Age medicine, facilitated communication, and other skams that play on ignorance of how the world really operates.

  21. Michoel Halberstam says:

    In my experience, which consists of just having lived through past crises, and who has read the newspapers, expecting the Agudath Yisroel to offer thanks to anyone not under their control is not a useful way to spend your time.

  22. David Ohsie says:

    @Steve Berman: The Catholic schools are not questioning the principle of substantial equivalency or claiming that the hours are obviously too onerous. They are objecting to a specific issue regarding conflict of interest and want the State rather the the local boards to do the certification. As it happens, the Yeshivas are already largely protected because they have a special clause that means that their compliance is decided by State and not by the local board. If the Agudah supports the principle of substantial equivalency in principle, but objects to the details, then let them say that, rather than making up bogus claims about 7 hour secular study requirements in support of the spin that this is the worst violation of religious freedom to ever come down the pike.

  23. David Ohsie says:

    @Chuck, the guidelines were intentionally misread. The 7 interpretation resulted from the claim that you needed 2 periods each of math, science, english and social studies each day which is facially absurd. If you followed the references to the regulations (references provided in the guidelines), then the meaning was quite clear if you really had any doubts to begin with.

    • Alternatively (and this happens to be true, although I don’t expect anyone to take my word for it), the guidelines were constructed extremely poorly. This was known quite a while ago. While it seemed likely to people who read it that the State did not mean 7 hours a day, leaving that vagueness unaddressed does indeed represent a grave threat. Hence, the concern – and the demand that the guideline be amended in writing, something that not only Agudah but the OU as well demands. Please keep in mind that although many of us don’t believe that the State came up with its new guidelines in order to imitate Czarist Russia, all bets are off about where the new guidelines could lead a year or a decade from now. There may very well be different strategies that people could come up with in how to deal with the threat, and it would not surprise us if the OU and Agudah chose different ways of addressing the threat, both towards our own community, and in dealing with Albany. Backers of different strategies need not think that there is anything nefarious about any competing strategy, even if they disagree. If there is any machlokes here (and we don’t know that with certainty), I don’t know why we should presume it to be anything but a machlokes l’Shem Shomayim.

  24. Bob Miller says:

    The Agudah is a coalition of groups with much in common, but some differences, too. What moves one group more may move another less. In this case, we have one concern, greater time allocation to general studies, that affects some more than others.

    However, we have a related concern, the prospect of sociopolitical curriculum tampering to impose alien cultural values, that threatens us all equally. The way to deal with this concern now is to prevent any increase in government power over us. It’s not enough for aspiring benevolent dictators to modify their edicts under pressure. They should be denied any new power to dictate. How to get them under control is a big challenge!

  25. David Ohsie says:

    @Reb Yid: Even the 17.5 number is high. The time listed for the core subjects is 12 hours per week. And that is before equivalence reduces that number. The other hours are for art, career and tech education, health and library science. They will be exempt from health by laws because of religious objections. The are very likely going to find equivalence for the others or else be covered under the general guidance that the curriculum doesn’t have to exactly match.

  26. David Ohsie says:

    @Rabbi Adlerstein, I’ve never agreed more with a comment of yours (and I do agree with you on a lot :). Besides the fact that pretty much all professions require either mathematical or verbal skill whose high school basis is a bare minimum for future learning.

  27. David Ohsie says:

    @DK: That article is full of inaccuracies. Two being: #1 the number of hours didn’t change. No one backed down from anything. The guidance was misinterpreted (probably intentionally) by those who oppose any guidance at all. #2: The requirements for math, science, english and social studies is only 12 hours, and that is before equivalency. The hours are likely be to be subsumed under equivalency or, in the case of health, not required because of religious objection as described in statute.

  28. David Ohsie says:

    @Charnie, there is a specific provision of law, cited in the specification, exempting those with a religious objection from health education.

  29. Flora yeger says:

    Dovid Field

    “The responsible and diligent work by the OU achieved the desired result.” When you say this it kind of insinuates that the state did intend to double the requirement for nonpublics and with the hard work of the OU the state backed off. I think it would have been better to say the OU, through various channels, finally got someone to respond to their inquiries and confirm what they already knew to be true.

  30. Reb Yid says:

    Steve Berman:

    General knowledge and education are basic elements to a more successful, healthy life. There is zero excuse, for example, for the measles outbreak happening right now in the metro NY area. The total ignorance displayed by aspects of the Haredi and Hasidic population regarding vaccinations is not only awful, but a very dangerous health risk to us all.

    The general world is not out to “get” the Orthodox through vaccinations or basic educational requirements. Genug.

  31. Chuck says:

    Dovid Fields –
    There is actually no way that a reasonable person would think that the guidelines in the Appendix are meant to be applied over a four year period. That would mean only 1.5 hours per week for each of the core subjects, plus a minuscule amount of time for the other subjects. Additionally, I’m not sure why you think that reading the Regulations together with the guidelines would make it crystal clear that there was no 7-hour requirement.

  32. steven berman says:

    Reb Yid
    Previous studies have shown that parents of unvaccinated children are likely to be college educated (white, wealthy, english as a primary language and have good health coverage) so your correlation is questionable

  33. steven berman says:

    Rav Adlerstein
    The statement was clearly made to the principle to get him to spin a necessity in a positive way. I do not believe for a moment that the talmud chachum would agree to compromise with the state and bring in more English at the expense of kodesh.
    The krebs cycle comment came not only from personal experience but from a recent article by an MD proposing changes on how to lure more people into the profession (people don’t want to be internists anymore). He asked for a recognition of the broken system and felt a full year could be cut out of med school.
    We don’t need more secular hours in our yeshivos.
    If you want to have a discussion on maybe needing a change in how yeshivos and certain parents influence a denigration (and thus a waste) of the existing hours, and the effects of wasting those hours, that is a conversation I believe we can and should have.

    • We’re drifting a bit off topic here. There are schools that could use more secular studies. There are others that could use a lot less! And then there are the many in the middle, who could do a better job in getting through the curriculum in 3 hours a day than the public schools in twice that amount of time. They would only have to take the task a bit more seriously, invest in hiring better teachers, provide enough legitimate exercise time so that the kids don’t all act by late afternoon that they all forgot to take their ADD meds, and make more than a pro forma attempt at counteracting the bitul of general studies that the kids get from other circles. None of this, however, has much to do with the main topic – which we should get back to.

  34. mycroft says:

    ” The famous figure responded, “I don’t know about that. I’ve never learned anything that I was not able to find a place to use later in life.” ”
    Agreed, in a secular world I noticed that during my working years, occasionally I would get an idea out of nowhere which was based on something I had learned in fields apparently completely different from the one being generally used. Of course, since time is our most valuable commodity it is simply a matter of tradeoffs that we must make.
    Of course, even in limudei kodesh tradeoffs must be made, torah lishmah vs halacha lemaaseh. Learning 3 blatt in depth during a semester or learning 15 blatt in a less in depth manner. The more knowledge, the better but there are tradeoffs.

  35. Steve Brizel says:

    Mycroft there is a big difference between various Darcei HaLimud and reducing hours for Zlimudei Kodesh

  36. Steve Brizel says:

    As is the case of all bureaucracies one must be wary of innocuous seeming regulations which are the mask for an ideological agenda that is bent on more rather than less regulation and regulations that might impose an agenda that no yeshiva should allow or permit

  37. Steven Brizel says:

    We as a community and individuals can and should nothing from a curriculum that posits that a child has two fathers or two mothers

  38. dr. bill says:

    steve brizel, remember it is difficult to fulfill the obligation that was addressed to the rabbinic class of dah ma shetashuv le’apikoret. when I read attempts by many who believe they are equipped to try, I find that they do not follow a principle I used throughout my business life – make the other’s argument at least as well as they could. if you do, they will believe you understand their point of view.btw, that principle helps in talmudic / halakhic discourse as well

  39. Steven Brizel says:

    The issue remains not which subjects are taught for so many or so few hours but rather what is required to be taught in terms of curriculum who approves and supervises and the overall intrusion on the autonomy of the day school and yeshiva systems which bureaucrats like to increase leather than decrease as part of their mandate and modus operandi of regulating more rather than less

  40. Steve Berman says:

    dr bill
    Their argument is clearly understood (and has some legitimacy) . Numerous schools are failing to keep the arrangements made with the board of ed decades ago. Had they come to us and said “listen, we know your schools produce an average student that we should be envious of. Your average graduates beat our graduates (assuming they graduate) at test scores/intelligence, success in the business world and basic mentchlikeit. But we had an agreement and you guys aren’t keeping it. So we have an obligation to the students to make sure these standards are kept”.
    That’s not what happened. What happened is a planned disruption of the status quo. Which is both unwarranted and unacceptable. With passage of C-16 in Canada and the recent (though BH seemingly avoided) transgender curriculum in England, sometimes it may be necessary to dig in and go to war.
    The only compromise we should agree to is an enforcement of the status quo. All further intrusion by the state (considering the mores of the day) need to be avoided at all costs.

  41. Bob Miller says:

    Some time has now passed. Did anything really change? What has NY State provided in writing to allay the valid fears of Jewish educators and parents? What written power grabs has it left untouched?

  42. David Ohsie says:

    @Steven Brizel: Your logic escapes me. There are Chassidishe high schools where the boys graduate without basic command of the English language. This is a needless tragedy. My kids’ Charedi lite schools manage to give a basic secular education without introducing gay rights into the curriculum.

  43. Bob Miller says:

    David Ohsie, December 29, 2018 at 10:37 pm, wrote:
    “Charedi lite schools manage to give a basic secular education without introducing gay rights into the curriculum.”

    Here we’re discussing the prospect of future government-mandated, Jewishly objectionable changes to curriculum content. David Ohsie’s point addressed an existing private choice consistent with Judaism—the very thing the aggressive state might endanger.

    By the way, the state already oversees many public school districts whose boys and girls often graduate with no basic command of the English language. Not only recent immigrants! No money or curricular innovations thrown at these schools managed to solve the problem. Might we conclude that the state educational authorities lack a certain talent for education?

  44. Steven Brizel says:

    For those interested see the article by R Menken and Jeff Balabon in the Jewish Press about the role of Yaffed and its dole rabbinic advisor a former head of the R movement who is well known for his hostile comments about Torah Judaism in America and Israel. Regulations as I have stated even in the most innocuous form generally mask an ideological agenda

  45. Steve Brizel says:

    Dr Bill bureaucrats exist to promulgate more rather than less regulations and regulations invariably mask an ideological agenda

  46. Steve Brizel says:

    David Oshie-It is fascinating that NY and many “blue” states spend a lot of money on public education and in NY, at least, it is well known that the percentages of students who can read, do math etc at grade level are not impressive. Yeshivos are certainly not known for violence between students, or inappropriate conduct by students or by teachers, (except in a few instances,) whose union enables them to sit in a rubber room getting paid while the schools attempt to terminate their employment. Passing a Regents, at least when I was a student years ago, meant that teachers engaged in the equivalent of chazarah from Pesach on with the trusty Barrons review books or that students found tutors who could help them prepare for the Regents in the same way that one prepared for the SATS etc. I would suspect that a yeshiva parent gets a better result for their investment in terms of passing the Regents than the public schools-that is certainly the case in my neck of the woods

  47. mycroft says:

    “It is fascinating that NY and many “blue” states spend a lot of money on public education and in NY, at least, it is well known that the percentages of students who can read, do math etc at grade level are not impressive.”
    Read the following report to see how drastic differences there are in scorers between different groups in US
    https://reports.collegeboard.org/pdf/2018-total-group-sat-suite-assessments-annual-report.pdf

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