In September 2019, New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms (NYCF) submitted a public comment on a proposed rule relating to instruction in nonpublic schools. The proposed rule would have required school districts to evaluate the instruction provided by nonpublic schools (including Christian schools) to see whether that instruction complied with state law. (New York law requires nonpublic schools to provide instruction that is substantially equivalent to the education provided in nearby public schools.) The process laid out in the proposed regulations was both onerous and unfair to nonpublic schools.
The proposed rules proved highly controversial. More than 140,000 public comments about the rules were submitted to the state, and many of those comments were unfavorable. Thankfully, the state of New York got the message, backed off, and went back to the drawing board.
Earlier this year, the state of New York proposed a new set of regulations relating to nonpublic schools. This year’s regulations are a major improvement over the regulations proposed in 2019. The main improvement is the fact that the state proposes to allow many nonpublic schools to avoid undergoing substantial equivalency reviews; nonpublic schools that are accredited, that are registered with the Education Department, or that can demonstrate the effectiveness of their instructional program through the use of state tests would be allowed to avoid being investigated and reviewed. Nevertheless, the regulations still need more work. Accordingly, NYCF has submitted a public comment expressing the following concerns:
- The regulations would still require local school districts to evaluate the effectiveness of nonpublic schools. This is unacceptable. The Commissioner of the New York State Education Department—not school districts—should evaluate the effectiveness of nonpublic schools.
- The regulations state that nonpublic schools that have been accredited by NYSED-approved accrediting bodies shall be deemed substantially equivalent and shall not be required to undergo substantial equivalency review. However, the language about which accrediting bodies will be recognized by the state is vague and unclear.
- The regulations would allow anyone who believes that a nonpublic school is failing to provide a substantially equivalent education to complain to the Commissioner of the New York State Education Department about that school. Upon receipt of such a complaint, the Commissioner could cause an investigation to be launched. This language would allow anyone to make a complaint that could trigger a substantial equivalency investigation, regardless of whether the complainant had any connection to the nonpublic school in question. The language is much too loose, and could result in vexatious complaints being made by people with negative views about nonpublic schools.
New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms will continue standing up for the interests of Christian schools.