Religious Liberty and Education: A Case Study of Yeshivas vs. New York – How should the state regulate private and religious schooling?

In 2020, Jason Bedrick, Jay Greene and Matt Lee coedited a book entitled Religious Liberty and Education: A Case Study of Yeshivas vs. New York, published by Rowman & Littlefield. The editors are three esteemed experts in the field of education policy: Jason Bedrick was, at the time, director of policy for EdChoice and an adjunct scholar with the Cato Institute, Jay Greene is Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas, and Matt Lee is Distinguished Doctoral Fellow and Senior Research Assistant in the Department of Education Reform, also at the University of Arkansas.

The book looks at public policy on education in America and explores the crucial regulatory role of the state in supervising religious education. In particular, it provides a close examination of the Yeshiva controversy, instance where the state arguably exceeded the boundaries of its regulatory role, to the detriment of parents’ right to choose a school according to their beliefs. The term “Yeshiva” designates Orthodox Jewish private schools, run by Hasidic Jewish sects.

Yeshivas were subject to criticism from a group of activists called Young Advocates for Fair Education (YAFFED). YAFFED accused these schools of not providing an adequate secular education. Subsequently to these allegations, the New York State Education Department enforced stricter requirements that private schools must satisfy to comply with New York’s education law. The implementation of the new guidelines, which are much more difficult to meet in practice, generated a public outcry because this may effectively hinder religious liberty and education.

The Yeshiva controversy reveals the inherent tensions that underpin the relationship between religion and education. Furthermore, it stresses the importance of striking a balance between on the one hand, upholding the right of the parents to choose an education for their children in line with their religious belief and, on the other hand, preserving the right of children to receive an adequate education guaranteed by the state.

The purpose of Religious Liberty and Education: A Case Study of Yeshivas vs. New York is rightly to find an intersection between right to education and religious free exercise. To that end, the book takes into consideration diverse religious perspectives and expert analysis from a broad range of professional backgrounds. In an editorial review, Yuval Levin (editor of National Affairs) insisted that finding such intersection is determinant for the future of our free societies. Hence, Religious Liberty and Education: A Case Study of Yeshivas vs. New York addresses a key societal issue and may be worth the read.

Chloé Vermenouze

If you want to know more, you can buy the book in the following link:

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