Christian New Yorkers and parents of various faiths were outraged last year when the New York State Education Department (NYSED) proposed a massive regulatory power grab that threatened the continued existence of some nonpublic schools.
Under the guise of ensuring that nonpublic schools provide their students with an education that is “substantially equivalent” to the education offered in neighboring public schools, the proposed regulations would have obliged school districts to evaluate local nonpublic schools annually and to report their findings. If the Commissioner of Education or a local school board determined that a nonpublic school had failed to provide a “substantially equivalent” education, the nonpublic school could be shut down.
On February 10, 2020, NYSED provided an update on its proposed substantial equivalency regulations. The Department revealed that it had received a staggering 140,000 comments from the public on the proposed regulations; the New York Post reported that most of the comments were unfavorable. NYSED noted that commenters raised constitutional, religious liberty and parental rights concerns. Each of which is consistent with New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms’ objections to the proposed regulations. According to the Albany Times Union, “Interim Education Commissioner Shannon Tahoe conceded…that more engagement was needed to address the broad scope of concerns…” NYSED added that it “will continue its review of public comments” and “will also re-engage stakeholders for further discussion on this issue.”
What does this mean? For now, the Department is slowing its push for substantial equivalency regulations and seeking further dialogue with nonpublic schools and others. This is good news for Christian schools, Christian parents, and other nonpublic schools across New York. The extraordinary blowback the Department received has made an impression, and the Christian schools, Christian parents, and others who submitted comments are to be applauded. A cautionary note is in order, however: In politics and government, no victory is permanent. These regulations—or something similar to them—could be proposed again in the future. The left’s disdain and contempt for nonpublic schools in general and faith-based schools in particular isn’t going away. Neither can we.