New York – Less than two weeks after re-releasing regulations that would have given New York State control over the number of hours of secular studies taught at private schools statewide, as well as mandating curriculum requirements, Department of Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia has unexpectedly resigned.
Politico reported Anna Gronewold announced the news on Twitter, saying that Elia had submitted her letter of resignation today, catching the Board of Regents by surprise and quoting Chancellor Betty Rosa as saying “obviously this is an issue that has caught us all off guard.”
Chalkbeat New York tweeted that Elia was resigning for personal reasons, with more details to follow later this afternoon.
Elia’s latest effort to exercise state control over private schools statewide sparked a flurry of activity. By state law, the guidelines mandated by Elia are subject to a public comment period.
A campaign launched by PEARLS giving yeshiva parents to voice their opposition to the plan resulted in 4,862 letters of protest, representing 14,100 yeshiva students, in just over one week.
Letters went out last week from Torah Vodaath Rosh Hayeshiva Rabbi Yisroel Reisman urging the school’s parents, grandparents, friends and alumni to take part in the letter writing campaign. Rabbi Reisman and Mir Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Elya Brudny met with Commissioner Elia last year hoping to demonstrate that the vast majority of yeshivas were providing students with a substantially equivalent education to that offered in the public schools, as required by state law.
The two penned a letter to the editor that appeared in the Wall Street Journal (https://on.wsj.com/2Gd0mPO) last December warning that New York’s yeshivas would not allow the state to make any curriculum changes that would in any way interfere with their emphasis on offering a Torah-true education.
Non-Jewish private schools have also refused to accept the commissioner’s recommendations. The New York Post (https://nyp.st/2G8YCaj) reported that the head of the Upper Trinity School in Manhattan asked parents to express their displeasure with the proposed regulation.
Amanda Uhry, president of the Manhattan Private School Advisors firm said that private school parents were angered by Elia’s latest power play noting, “I don’t think parents want to send their kids to schools that are private and that they are paying $55,000 a year so the state can tell them what to do.”
Earlier attempts by Elia in November to regulate private schools without allowing for the state-mandated 60 day public comment fell short, with New York State Supreme Court Judge Christina Ryba ruling that the first set of guidelines proposed by the commissioner had not been implemented in accordance with state law, as previously reported on VIN News (http://bit.ly/2Gapw1h).
The public comment period on the new regulations was due to end on September 2nd, after which they would have been subject to the approval of the New York State Board of Regents.
Elia’s resignation is expected to take effect at the end of August.
A copy of Elia’s two page resignation letter published by Politico (https://politi.co/2YVknSf) gave no specific reason for her abrupt announcement, trumpeting only her achievements during her tenure as commissioner.
While the letter addressed successes in the troubled Rochester school district, it made no mention of any efforts aimed at the state’s nonpublic school community.
“As a former teacher, administrator, and superintendent, I have devoted my entire 45-year career to putting children on a path to success both in school and beyond, and I am enormously grateful for the opportunity to lead the school system here in New York State,” wrote Elia. “Going forward, I hope to translate the experiences I’ve gained from one of the largest, most complex education systems in the country into lessons to help improve classrooms, schools, and districts for students in every state.”