The New York State Education Department (SED) released today, informally, a correction to their guidelines which threaten the Torah education of our children. It reduced the number of hours of required study per day, in the seventh and eighth grades, from seven hours to 3.5 hours. It also removed the time requirement from the fifth and sixth grades, clarifying that those grades have the same requirements as grades one through four.
While it is obvious to us that in making these changes the State Education Department took note of our concerns and communications to them, as well as those of the 50,000 people who signed a petition directed to them, nonetheless it is clear to us that the guidelines, even after the corrections, are still a problem for those seventh and eighth graders who – in a four-day-per-week schedule – would need 4.2 hours of seat time per day to be in compliance. This is unacceptable to most Yeshivos in New York State.
Notwithstanding today’s developments, we reaffirm that the core problem with the guidance remains: it empowers the state to make curriculum decisions about which subjects must be taught in Yeshivos and Bais Yaakovs, how long they must be taught, and how many hours of the day must be taken away from Limudei Kodesh in order to accommodate these requirements. This is a grave threat to our mesorah.
We continue to insist that, beyond certain minimal basics, decisions about Yeshiva chinuch must be made by the parents of our children and their manhigim, not government bureaucrats. We will continue to do so in our advocacy and legal efforts.
We encourage the greater tzibbur to get involved as well. The Agudah has created a page through which one can easily send a letter to state officials registering our protest about this gross overreach of government power. Please take a moment to be part of this initiative by going to http://yeshivosbychoice.org/action/.