Seek Court Order for State Intervention and Corrective Action
On January 14, parents of public school children in East Ramapo Central School District filed a petition in State Supreme Court in Albany, asking the court to direct the New York State Board of Regents and the State Education Department (SED) to take concrete remedial action to safeguard their children’s right to a sound basic education as guaranteed by the New York State Constitution.
The petition describes numerous State and federal investigations and reports documenting a continuing pattern of fiscal mismanagement and neglect by the East Ramapo Board of Education over the last decade. The Board’s mismanagement has resulted in a severe lack critical educational resources, resulting in poor student outcomes and depriving district students of a sound basic education. The reports, including two in the last year by State-appointed monitors, provide compelling and overwhelming evidence of a district on the brink of financial collapse.
In these reports, State and federal officials document the Board’s failures to provide essential programs and services to vulnerable student populations, including English Language Learners (ELL) and students with disabilities. They also spell out the signficiant cuts made by the Board in the number of classroom teachers and support staff employed by the district and in essential school programs.
Over a year ago, a comprehensive report by a fiscal monitor appointed by former State Commissioner John King made numerous recommendations to address the Board’s mismanagement, reallocate funding within the district’s budget, and begin restoring essential resources cut from district schools. These recommendations were echoed in a December 14, 2015, report to the Board of Regents by Dennis Walcott and a team of monitors appointed by State Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia in August.
Despite the State’s best efforts to secure their voluntary cooperation, the Board has steadfastly refused to take meaningful steps to fix the problems identified in the reports and take prompt corrective action to provide students with a sound basic education.
In light of the Board’s intransigence, the parents’ petition seeks a court order to compel the SED and Regents to intervene and take all actions necessary and appropriate to remedy the fiscal crisis in East Ramapo. The petition makes clear that, under the New York State Constitution, State education officials have an affirmative duty to intervene whenever a local board of education and district, through a continuing pattern of mismanagement and neglect, sabotage the rights of school children to a sound basic education.
“It is clear that the children of East Ramapo need the state to step in immediately and ensure that the Board delivers the resources necessary to protect their right to an education,” said parent-petitioner Romel Alvarez “Each day the state fails to act is a precious day of learning lost by our kids.”
“The community of East Ramapo supports this petition as a logical extension of the December 14 monitors’ report,” said Willie J. Trotman, President of the Spring Valley NAACP. “We stand behind the parents in calling for immediate relief for the children of our school district.”
The parents are represented pro bono by Brad Elias of O’Melveny & Myers, and David G. Sciarra and Wendy Lecker of Education Law Center.
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