County Executive’s Corner: “Substantial Equivalency”

By County Executive Ed Day

Right now, the New York State Department of Education and the Board of Regents are considering regulations regarding substantial equivalency in private schools. Substantial equivalency is already required under New York State law but it has never before been monitored, measured or enforced.

These new regulations would give teeth, through the power of inspection, to local school districts; ensuring that ALL students are receiving an education that prepares them for the future. I wrote to the Department of Education in support of these regulations along with many of our local State representatives.

In my humble view, the key to success of our American experiment is education. New York Times Columnist David Brooks wrote, “despite our differences, we devote our lives to the same experiment, the American experiment to draw people from around the world and to create the best society ever, to serve as a model for all humankind. Unity can only come from a common dedication to this experiment.”

We must ensure that each and every child is taught about our collective history, English, math and science; these are the skills we all need to succeed in an increasingly complicated world.

It is unacceptable that tens of thousands of children, many of whom reside and go to school here in Rockland County, are reportedly not being provided with a basic secular education in certain ultra-Orthodox and Hasidic yeshivas. I am especially concerned that children who are not learning English language skills today will be permanently handicapped in pursuing academic and job opportunities; leading to a life of poverty and dependence on Government social programs, they are ill-equipped to navigate.

New York State law already declares that all schools must meet a “substantial equivalency” standard. However, only a real inspection regime, backed up by the credible threat of loss of public funding, can ensure that every child in Hasidic and ultra-Orthodox yeshivas receives an adequate general education. Advancing these regulations would go a long way in ensuring this goal is met in a timely manner.

To those who say that their private school does an excellent job educating students; great, you have nothing at all to be worried about. Let us prove that these schools are doing the job of preparing the next generation of children to make their way in the world. Let us show that we care about the future of every child in our county because, as I’ve said before, it’s only by coming together that we can truly succeed in making Rockland the greatest county in New York State.

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