New York education officials approved rules Tuesday requiring all private schools,...

New York education officials approved rules Tuesday requiring all private schools, including Jewish yeshivas, to meet the state's minimum academic standards. Credit: Getty Images/Spencer Platt

Private schools, including Jewish yeshivas, that fail to meet the state’s minimum academic standards will be expected to start upgrading their instruction before Dec. 1, under new rules given final approval Tuesday by the state's Board of Regents.

This latest overhaul of the state’s 127-year-old compulsory-education law gives nonpublic schools options: Either they take steps on their own to meet traditional standards, such as obtaining formal academic accreditation, or call on public boards of education to approve their coursework.

The law, adopted in 1895, requires all nonpublic schools to provide academic education "substantially equivalent" to that in the public sector, apart from any religious lessons those schools might choose to give. State Education Commissioner Betty A. Rosa described the equivalence requirement Monday as "a commitment we have that we must live up to."

On Long Island and across the state, the majority of nonpublic schools already meet state requirements to provide academic instruction, according to New York education authorities and school representatives. There are more than 1,800 such schools statewide.

However, a group of more than 30 Jewish yeshivas in Brooklyn and Rockland County have denounced the new rules as government overreach and have vowed to continue operating “with or without the blessing or support of state leaders in Albany." The protesting schools are sponsored by the Hasidic branch of Judaism, which is known for its religious conservatism and social seclusion.

Many experts expect the dispute over state standards to wind up in court.

Education officials have wrestled with the “equivalency” issue since 2015, when a group of former yeshiva students and their parents filed a lawsuit against four schools. The plaintiffs contended that the schooling of boys had focused so much on religion, taught mostly in Yiddish, that recipients never gained skills in English and calculation needed to function in modern society.

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