Religious and Independent Schools

State Requirements and Programs

Equivalency of Instruction

The compulsory attendance law in New York State requires that all children between the ages of six and sixteen be provided with a program of instruction, either at a public school or elsewhere. The object of the compulsory attendance law is to see that children are not left in ignorance, that from some source they receive the instruction that will fit them for their place in society. If a child attends a nonpublic school or is being educated at home, the board of education of each school district must be assured that the child is receiving instruction which is substantially equivalent to that provided in the public schools of the district of residence. The Board's responsibility is the children living in the district; it has no direct authority over a nonpublic school. The board usually asks its superintendent of schools to gather the information necessary for determining equivalency. With regard to new schools, the steps in the section on New Schools should be followed.

If a nonpublic school is chartered by the Board of Regents, or if a secondary school is registered by the Board of Regents, the State Education Department recommends that the board of education of the district in which the school is located accept the registration as evidence that the nonpublic high school has an equivalent program of instruction. Local school officials are usually familiar with the programs of nonpublic schools which have been in existence for a period of time. Such schools have a known record through children transferring in and out of school and their subsequent achievements in public schools and colleges.

If a serious question does arise about equivalency of instruction in a nonpublic school, the superintendent of the district should inform the administrator of the nonpublic school that a question has been raised and arrange time for an informal discussion between the superintendent and nonpublic school officials regarding the inquiry.

The Office of Nonpublic Schools is available for counsel regarding the matter of equivalency. This Office has published "Guidelines for Determining Equivalency of Instruction in Nonpublic Schools" which is available upon request.


There is no State requirement that any personnel employed by a nonpublic school be certified. Many schools choose to hire only certified teachers but they are not required to do so. The administrator has the responsibility of employing (or recommending for employment) those persons who are qualified and competent to carry out their assigned tasks in a manner consistent with the goals of the school.

The administrator should see that any new teacher has information about the school, its purpose and its instructional program. Also, the administrator should provide a new teacher with instructions and guidance about the school's testing program with particular emphasis on using the results of standardized tests to improve the instructional program. Since State tests are not given at every grade level, the administrator should make sure that all teachers are aware of these tests and how they relate to the total instructional program.

Providing for staff development is another important part of the administrator's role. Scheduled during faculty meetings or on special in-service days, staff development can enrich each teacher's knowledge and stimulate new ideas and approaches for the classroom. Plans can also be made for meetings and workshops to be conducted jointly with other neighboring schools. The State Education Department can provide workshop leaders on a variety of topics ranging from specific content areas to classroom management and school climate.

Administrators should also be alert to opportunities for staff development at workshops conducted in public schools and regional consortia. If district officials know of the interest on the part of nonpublic schools, they can let the administrator know of appropriate workshops and meetings. Another avenue for staff development is through the many professional organizations whose local, regional and national meetings can provide valuable insights and breadth to both teachers and administrators.

Staff development specifically for the administrator is found at the Conference for Administrators of Nonpublic Schools, held annually by the Office for Nonpublic School Services. Information about arranging for workshops and about the Conference is available from:

State Office for Religious and Independent Schools (SORIS)
State Education Department
Room 1078 EBA
Albany, NY 12234
(518) 473-8202 or


Length of School Day and Year

The law does not mandate specific time periods for nonpublic schools but they should provide instruction for approximately the same time required of public schools:

  • Grades 1-6 - 5 hours daily
  • Grades 9-12 - 5 1/2 hours daily

The nonpublic school's calendar should approximate that of the public school, but it need not be in session for the 180 days required for a public school district to receive its full State aid.

Charters of Incorporation

The Board of Regents has the authority to create educational corporations. The document which reflects the corporate status of a school is referred to as a "charter." Incorporation establishes the school as a legal entity. It is recommended that any nonpublic school which is not affiliated with a religious group and therefore under the Religious Corporations Law take steps to become incorporated. Information about how to petition for a charter is contained in Law Pamphlet 9, Education Corporations, which is available from the Office of Counsel.

Voluntary Registration

In New York State there is no law mandating the registration of a nonpublic elementary or secondary school. However, the Board of Regents conducts two types of voluntary registration programs: (1) nursery schools and kindergartens and (2) secondary schools. There is no registration program for elementary schools. Information about the nursery school and kindergarten registration program is available from the Office of Early Learning.

Only a registered secondary school may administer Regents examinations and award diplomas. The high school registration program involves the submission of information by a nonpublic school and an on-site visit to the school by a staff member in the Department's Bureau of School Registration. The basic standard for registration is that 85% of the seniors enrolled in October of their senior year meet competency requirements by the following June and, further, that the school demonstrate a retention rate at least 90% in the year prior to registration. In addition, every school must comply with applicable laws, rules and regulations. Registered nonpublic secondary schools are reviewed on a ten-year cycle. Every secondary school is encouraged to become registered.

Application for Nonpublic Secondary School Registration in Word Word document icon (148KB)

Statement on Nondiscrimination

Religious schools may select students on the basis of their religious affiliation. Also, the law allows for single-sex schools. However, in order to retain its 501 (c) (3) status with the Internal Revenue Service, a nonpublic school must comply with the Federal government's requirement of regular publication of the school's nondiscriminatory policy. The following portion of Revenue Ruling 75-50 may be helpful:

"The school may publish a notice of its racially nondiscriminatory policy in a newspaper of general circulation that serves all racial segments of the community. This publication must be repeated at least once annually during the period of the school's solicitation for students or, in the absence of a solicitation program, during the school's registration period. Where more than one community is served by a school, the school may publish its notice in those newspapers that are reasonably likely to be read by all racial segments of the communities it serves. The notice must appear in a section of the newspaper likely to be read by prospective students and their families and it must occupy at least three column inches. It must be captioned in at least 12 point bold face type as a notice of nondiscriminatory policy as to students, and its text must be printed in at least 8 point type. The following notice will be acceptable:

Notice of Nondiscriminatory Policy as to Students

The M school admits students of any race, color, national and ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, nationaland ethnic origin in administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic and other school-administered programs."

Basic Educational Data System Report (BEDS)

Each year the State Education Department collects information from both public and nonpublic schools, information that is helpful in planning State and Federal programs. With this data, the Department can allocate its resources in a manner responsive to the needs of the schools and their students.

The Department gives a BEDS code number to each school containing any or all grades from kindergarten through 12. This number, which serves as a means of identification, is based on the location of the school and reflects its affiliation, if any, with a State agency or a religious group. The BEDS report form is sent annually from the State Education Department to every school in September and must be submitted to the Department in October. Information in these reports is useful in determining the status and educational needs of students in the schools of New York State. It is the basis for allocation of aid under Chapter 2 and is invaluable for planning purposes. All schools are urged to return these forms promptly.

Questions about the BEDS forms should be addressed to Information and Reporting Services.


The Regents competency testing program is designed to ensure that all students develop adequate skills in reading comprehension, writing, mathematics, science and social studies before graduation from high school.

Details on dates, administration, scoring and reporting results of State tests may be obtained from the Office of Assessment Policy, Development and Administration.

1996 Regents Policy on Regents Examinations - Nonpublic participation in the 1996 public school standards and assessments initiative is voluntary. Minimum high school graduation requirements for registered nonpublic secondary schools in New York State continues to be based on the CR 100.5 diploma requirements effective in September 1985 when the "Regents Action Plan" was implemented. Registered nonpublic secondary schools continue, as of May 2005, to have the option of administering Regents Competency Tests, Regents Examinations, or, the alternative examinations described in the appendices of the Spring 1996 edition of the Department publication "Regents Examinations, Regents Competency Tests, & Proficiency Examinations."

Nonpublic School Relationship with current State testing program, Grade 4 and 8 - All public schools are required at grades four and eight to administer various State tests. While not required at the present time, nonpublic elementary schools are strongly encouraged to administer the State tests. Approximately 75% of the children attending nonpublic schools are presently participating.

New State Examinations for Grades 3, 5, 6 & 7 - Discussions are continuing between Department staff and the Commissioner's Advisory Council for Nonpublic Schools regarding nonpublic school participation regarding the new tests, the assignment of identification numbers, the proposed data warehouse, etc. Outstanding issues include how to pay for such participation, the lack of technology in many of the nonpublic schools, etc. Nonpublic participation will not be required. In 2005-2006, nonpublic schools will continue to administer grade 4 + 8 tests (ELA/Math) on a voluntary basis as they have in the past. The State Education Department will continue to act as their “Regional Information Center” (RIC) in regard to scoring said tests. In 2006-2007, nonpublic school participants will administer grade 4,6,and 8 tests on a voluntary basis. It is hoped that SED will continue to act as their RIC. In 2007-2008, nonpublic schools will test in grades 3-8 on a voluntary basis. SED will NOT act as their RIC, but work will be done in the next year or two to align nonpublic schools with RICs housed at various BOCES at affordable costs, or that a "nonpublic RIC" might be developed. Nonpublic schools wishing to administer the grade 3-8 tests now (in line with public schools) are being advised that they must enter into a relationship with a RIC, and that said nonpublic school will be responsible for all related costs.

Fire Inspections, Drills and Reports

Pursuant to the 1984 New York State Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code, all facilities owned, leased or operated by public school districts, nonpublic schools, colleges and universities must have an annual fire inspection. The exception to this code is schools within New York City, which are subject to the regulations of the New York City Fire Department rather than to the State Code.

The annual nonpublic school fire inspection should take place before December 1 and the annual nonpublic school fire inspection report filed with the State Education Department by December 16. The administration can arrange for a fire inspection by contacting the local fire department.

It is the duty of the principal or other person in charge to instruct and train the pupils by means of drills, so that they may in a sudden emergency respond appropriately. Such drills shall be held at least twelve times in each school year, eight of which required drills shall be held between September first and December thirty-first of each school year. Eight of all such drills shall be evacuation drills, four of which shall be through use of the fire escapes on buildings where fire escapes are provided or through the use of identified secondary means of egress. Four of all such required drills shall be lock-down drills. If a summer school is conducted, at least two additional drills should be held during summer school sessions and one drill should be held during the first week of summer school.


Public Health Law section 2164 deals with immunization against poliomyelitis, mumps, measles, diphtheria and rubella. Subdivision 7(a) of this section states:

"No principal, teacher, owner or person in charge of a school shall permit any child to be admitted to such school, or to attend such school in excess of fourteen days, without...some acceptable evidence of the child's immunization..."

The statute exempts a child for whom a licensed physician certifies that the immunization may be medically contraindicated. The medical exemption must be provided on an annual basis. Medical exemptions to immunizations must be completed by a duly licensed physician ( which is a medical doctor (MD) or doctor of osteopathy (DO) licensed to practice in NYS) on the NYS Immunization Exemption form or a written statement that provides the required information per NYS Department of Health Commissioner’s Regulation §66-1.3 Title: Section 66-1.3 - Requirements for school admission | New York Codes, Rules and Regulations (

(c) A signed, completed medical exemption form approved by the NYSDOH or NYC Department of Education from a physician licensed to practice medicine in New York State certifying that immunization may be detrimental to the child's health, containing sufficient information to identify a medical contraindication to a specific immunization and specifying the length of time the immunization is medically contraindicated. The medical exemption must be reissued annually. The principal or person in charge of the school may require additional information supporting the exemption.

Commissioner's Regulations - Part 100

The New York State Board of Regents approved new regulations, effective November 1984, which were designed to improve elementary and secondary education in New York State. These regulations, Part 100 of the Commissioner's Regulations, phase in new elementary and secondary requirements over the period 1985-94. In general, most of these requirements apply to nonpublic schools. Some characteristics and differences are noted below:

  • When the terms "for all students" and "in all schools" are used, the regulation applies to nonpublic schools.
  • Requirements for second language instruction to be available do not apply to nonpublic schools, except if they are being used to fulfill sequence requirements for Regents diplomas.
  • Nonpublic schools are not required to develop discipline plans nor are they required to evaluate professional staff people annually.
  • For grades 7-8, nonpublic schools are allowed to meet unit of study requirements for technology education, home and career skills and library and information skills by incorporating the learning outcomes of these subjects into other courses or by demonstrating student mastery of these subjects through testing. The administrator must document how this requirement is met and make this information available should the Commissioner request it.
  • Nonpublic schools are not required to provide for the acceleration of students in grade 8.
  • In grades 9-12, it is not incumbent on a nonpublic high school to offer a sequence in a second language, unless the school offers Regents diplomas.
  • Nonpublic schools are not required to offer courses in occupational education.
  • Nonpublic high schools are not required to make available to students three-unit sequences in all the areas required of public schools, but they must offer enough courses so that students can meet local or Regents diploma requirements. A number of nonpublic high schools do not offer Regents diplomas nor are they required to do so.

Program Requirements

General instruction is mandated for all elementary and secondary schools in:

  • patriotism and citizenship
  • history of the United States and New York State
  • health education regarding abuse of alcohol, drugs and tobacco
  • highway safety and traffic regulations
  • fire drills and fire prevention

If a pre-K program is registered, its curriculum must include:

  • communication skills
  • literature
  • dramatic play
  • creative art
  • music activities
  • group projects
  • discussions
  • games
  • science and mathematical experience
  • physical education

In grades 1-6, instruction must be given in:

  • Reading
  • Spelling
  • Writing
  • English
  • Arithmetic
  • Geography
  • U.S. History
  • Science
  • Health education
  • Music
  • Visual arts
  • Physical education (at least 120 minutes a week)

In grades 7 and 8, requirements are given in terms of units of study. A unit of study is 180 minutes of instruction per week throughout the school year, or the equivalent. Instruction must be given in grades 7 and 8 in:

  • English (2 units)
  • Social Studies (2 units)
  • Science (2 units)
  • Math (2 units)
  • Health (1/2 unit)
  • Art (1/2 unit)
  • Music (1/2 unit)
  • Physical Education (1/2 unit)
  • Technology education*(1 unit)
  • Home and Career Skills* (3/4 unit)
  • Library and Information Skills* (one period a week in grades 7 and 8.)

*In nonpublic schools the learning outcomes of these courses may be incorporated into subjects in other courses. Such integration must be documented in writing and kept on file at the school. In grades 9-12, diploma requirements, both local and Regents, are increasing. Part 100.5 of the Commissioner's Regulations details the diploma requirements.

Curriculum Materials

Although no school is required to use a State syllabus or curriculum, the Department produces a constant flow of curricular materials. State tests are based on these materials. New syllabi and curriculum supplements are automatically sent to every nonpublic school so that over time a collection is assembled. Not every item published is available on demand but those in supply are listed in the "Publications Catalog" which may be obtained by contacting the Curriculum and Instruction Team.

Comprehensive Assessment Report (CAR)

By October 31 of each year the State Education Department submits to every school in the State test results for its CAR. The CAR includes the following information for the three years immediately preceding the school year in which it is issued:

  • all State testing data
  • enrollment
  • diplomas and certificates awarded
  • any information the administrator believes will reflect the assessment of the school

The administrator should then initiate measures to improve results related to the report. Nonpublic schools may choose to make CAR results public but they are not required to do so.

Reimbursement for Mandated Services

Nonpublic schools may be reimbursed for the actual costs related to complying with certain State mandates if eligibility requirements are met. To be eligible for reimbursement, the school must:

  • Provide instruction in all required subjects according to Section 3204 of the Education Law
  • Require pupils to attend upon full time instruction according to Section 3205 of the Education Law
  • Not be the recipients of other state or local aid, directly or indirectly (e.g., tuition payments for the handicapped).
  • Be a not-for-profit institution

The administrator should keep track of and be able to document the amount of time spent by faculty and staff in complying with State mandates. Expenses incurred in fulfilling the following mandates are reimbursable:

  1. BEDS forms
  2. Pupil attendance records
  3. Grade 3-8 State Tests
  4. Regents Exams
  5. Regents Competency Tests
  6. Registration of high schools
  7. Graduation Reports
  8. Documentation of incorporation of home and career skills, technology education and library and information skills into other courses.

Contact us with questions about the Mandated Services reimbursement program.

Services Available to Students

The Office of Nonpublic School Services of the State Education Department is a liaison between nonpublic and public schools and between nonpublic schools and other offices in the Department. In addition to compiling this publication, staff members of this Office have produced a Handbook on Services to Pupils Attending Nonpublic Schools. The Handbook has proven extremely helpful to all administrators and is a basic reference for the new administrator. The Handbook, additional information on topics covered in this Manual, and technical assistance is available from:

Nonpublic School Services Team
Room 475 EBA
State Education Department
Albany, NY 12234
(518) 474-3879

A brief description of the services public school districts are required to make available follows:

Health Services

Upon request by the administrator of a nonpublic school, the public school district must provide resident students who attend that nonpublic school with the health and welfare services available to students in the public schools. By contract, public school districts must provide these services to resident students attending nonpublic schools located in other school districts when nonpublic school administrators request such services.

The health services which a board of education may provide include but are not limited to:

  1. a physical examination upon entrance to school, and upon entrance to grades K, 1, 2, 4, 7 & 10 and at other times deemed necessary by school authorities in the educational interests of the child.
  2. vision screening test for all students upon entry and in grades K, 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, & 10
  3. hearing test for all students upon entry and in grades K, 1, 3, 5, 7, & 10
  4. an annual scoliosis screening test for all students in grades 5-9
  5. the maintenance of cumulative health records
  6. written notification to parents of any health problems found during the physical or screening exams.
  7. emergency care of ill or injured pupils
  8. compliance with an enforcement of mandatory immunization requirements

The district may, at its discretion, make additional services available to all students. The nonpublic school administrator may specify which services are to be used, if all services are not desired.

Textbook Loans

All school boards are required to purchase and to loan textbooks on an equitable basis to all pupils residing in the school district who are attending grades kindergarten through twelve in any public or nonpublic school. Each school district receives funds from the State for the textbook loan program based on the number of pupils resident in the district. There is no limit on the amount a district may spend for a given pupil. No pupil may be denied textbooks for financial reasons if the district has not expended an amount equal to the State apportionment for textbooks Parents of nonpublic school pupils must submit written requests for textbooks to the public school district in which they reside. Public and nonpublic officials often agree on a format in which the nonpublic school submits requests collectively to the school district. In some cases, parents obtain textbook lists from the nonpublic school and submit them individually to the school districts. A board of education may specify a date by which requests for textbooks must be received by the district. Notice of the date, which may not be earlier than June 1, must be given to all nonpublic schools.

Computer Software Loans

A computer software loan program has been established by the State in which public school districts purchase and loan computer software programs to both public and nonpublic school students to be used as learning aids. Each district receives an apportionment from the State per child enrolled in grades K-12 in any public or nonpublic school in the district.

Written requests for the loan of computer software programs to nonpublic school students must be submitted to the district in which the nonpublic school is located. This is usually done by the administrator. It is suggested that in the spring the administrator review software needs and compile the list of desired software programs.

To secure software programs the administrator should submit to the district the total number of pupils enrolled in grades K-12 and a list of computer software programs requested for their use. The district will then purchase and loan these programs to the nonpublic school. Districts establish their own procedures in dealing with this program, and, therefore, it is advisable to check with district officials on the following points:

  • the date for submission of requests
  • the manner of distribution and storage
  • the responsibilities of the individual student and of the school

It is important to develop a spirit of cooperation between public and nonpublic school administrators to ensure the smooth operation of this program.

School Library Materials Loans

Pupils enrolled in grades K-12 in schools in New York State may borrow library materials required for use as a learning aid in a particular class or program. School library materials which are religious in nature or content cannot be purchased or loaned by a school district.

This program is similar to the one for computer software loans and operates in the same manner. Here again, a good cooperative working relationship between public and nonpublic school administrators is beneficial.


As districts may provide transportation in a variety of modes and may have different procedures for arranging transportation schedules, the administrator is urged to talk with officials of each district involved about arrangements. The following paragraphs cover provisions of the Law in a general way.

Education Law requires that all non-city districts provide transportation for pupils enrolled in grades K-8, who live more than two miles from their school of attendance, and for pupils enrolled in grades 9-12 who live more than three miles from their school of attendance up to a distance of fifteen miles.

City School districts and the city portion of enlarged city school districts are not required to provide any transportation, except for suitable transportation for children with handicapping conditions. These districts may, however, by a majority vote of the board of education, elect to provide transportation. If transportation is provided, it must be provided equally to all pupils in like circumstances, those attending both public and nonpublic schools.

In enlarged city school districts, the board of education is required to provide transportation in accordance with the provisions of Section 3635 for those pupils residing within the enlarged portion of the city. Parents of nonpublic school students must request transportation services. This can be done directly to public school authorities or, in some cases, channeled through the nonpublic school to public school authorities. The deadline for submitting written requests for transportation is the first day of April which precedes the next school year. Administrators are urged to remind parents in February or March of the necessity of meeting this deadline and to alert parents of prospective new students of this as well.

The complexity of arranging routes and coordinating transportation for nonpublic school pupils from several districts attending a variety of nonpublic schools requires cooperative efforts in planning and communication. Nonpublic school and public school officials should discuss calendars, schedules and special pupil needs early in the planning stages.

Dual Enrollment

Under Section 3602-c of Education Law, pupils in nonpublic schools may also enroll in public school programs in three categories: occupational, handicapped, and gifted education. Dual enrollment is not permitted in any other areas. Dual enrollment does not in any way jeopardize the pupil's enrollment in the nonpublic school nor does it involve the pupil's registration in a public school. Through a request for participation in a dual enrollment program, a pupil is enrolled, but no formal registration in the public school is required. The law provides that nonpublic school pupils may not be segregated from public school pupils in any dual enrollment programs.

A board of education may provide occupational education programs in local public schools or through contract with another school district or with a Board of Cooperative Educational Services. Pupils in nonpublic schools are entitled to participate in occupational education programs on the same basis as pupils in public schools.

The board of education must provide transportation between a nonpublic school and the site where the program is offered if the distance is more than one-fourth of a mile. The board may claim State aid for this transportation.

Homebound Instruction

A student confined to home or hospital for a period of time with a temporary impairment, such as a broken bone, is eligible to receive instructional services from the public school district in which the student resides. The administrator should inform parents of this opportunity and should work with them and public school officials to arrange appropriate instruction. During the period of home-bound instruction the district may include the student in its claim for State aid, but this has no effect on the student's enrollment in the nonpublic school. Commissioner's Regulation 175.21 specifies that at the elementary school level each student must receive at least five hours of instruction a week; if possible, one hour each day. At the secondary school level, ten hours a week, and, if possible, two hours a day, must be provided to an eligible student. Additional information is available from:

Office of Student Support Services

Special Education

An administrator may occasionally become aware that a student may have a disability and be in need of special education services. At any time a student may be referred to the Committee on Special Education of the school district in which the student resides. If it is determined that a student has a handicapping condition, that district is also responsible for providing services. The specific nature of the special educational services depends on the individual needs of the child.

If it is determined that a student has a handicapping condition and needs special education services, the student in some cases may receive services at the nonpublic school. If only Federal funds are involved or if the school is non-sectarian, services may be provided at the school. State and local funds may not be used to provide instructional services on the site of a sectarian school. If the student must travel to receive services, transportation must be provided by the public school district if the distance between the nonpublic school and the public school exceeds one-fourth of a mile or for a lesser distance if required by a student's special needs. Nonpublic and public school officials are encouraged to work together to arrange schedules that will accommodate schools and students.

Additional information on obtaining services for students with disabilities is available from:

Office of Nonpublic School Services
State Education Department
Room 475 EBA
Albany, New York 12234
(518) 474-3879

School Lunch, Breakfast and Milk Program

Administrators must be sure that lunchroom or cafeteria facilities meet standards set by local health authorities. Many schools take advantage of publicly-funded school food and nutrition programs to provide or supplement meals and milk for their pupils. The State Education Department administers these programs, giving technical assistance and administrative guidance to participating schools.

A nonpublic school may apply for participation at any time during the school year. Schools may receive reimbursement to cover a portion of the cost of breakfasts, lunches and/or milk served to students. Information on the program is available from Child Nutrition Program Administration.

Last Updated: August 17, 2022