Support Our Work

As a nonprofit organization, ELC relies on the generous contributions of individuals, corporations and foundations to support our work.

donate now

Join Our Network

Name

Org.

Email

Anti-spam

NEW YORK LEGISLATURE MUST CURB ABUSES BY EAST RAMAPO SCHOOL BOARD

April 19, 2021

A bill pending in the New York State Legislature promises to rein in the East Ramapo School Board, which for decades has sabotaged the constitutional right of district students to a sound basic education. The bill, A56583/S6052, sponsored by Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski and Senator Elijah Reichlin-Melnick, would impose firm State oversight over the budget and operations of East Ramapo Central School District (ERCSD).

East Ramapo has a school-aged population of over 38,000 children, approximately 9,000 of whom attend public schools. The ERCSD enrollment is overwhelmingly Black and Latino. Eighty-nine percent (89%) of ERCSD students are low-income, 41% are English learners, and 16% are students with disabilities. Over 30,000 children who reside in East Ramapo attend private schools.

For years, the majority of the East Ramapo School Board has been controlled by private school supporters. The Board has engaged in a documented pattern of favoring private schools to the detriment of ERSCD students. Over the past decade, the Board has diverted hundreds of millions to private schools, with little or no oversight over those funds. The Board has presided over chronic and serious deficits in the ERSCD budget, forcing cuts to hundreds of teachers, support staff, and essential programs and services in the public schools.

The East Ramapo School Board has been cited time and again for waste, mismanagement, conflicts of interest, and giving unfair advantage to private schools, by the New York State Education Department (NYSED), the federal government and, most recently, the federal courts.

Yet, even after repeated warnings and sanctions, the Board persists in a pattern of neglecting the educational opportunities and legal rights of the students in their charge.

Since 2014, the NYSED has installed monitors to address the Board’s failings. However, the monitors have no power over the Board and, as a result, cannot stop or correct the Board’s abuse and mismanagement.

The bill pending in the Legislature would authorize the State monitor to exercise new powers, including:

  • overriding Board decisions;
  • pre-screening and approval of Board motions, resolutions and contract language;
  • a key role in selecting and approving district superintendents; and
  • amending the district’s budget.

The Board would also be required to adopt a conflict-of-interest policy.

According to Willie Trotman, president of the Spring Valley NAACP, “Now more than ever, after what we as a country have seen this past year, can any of us stand by and allow the racist consequences of the East Ramapo Board’s actions to continue?”

“The Legislature must install a monitor in East Ramapo with real, substantive authority over the Board, especially given the State’s recent commitment to fully fund the Foundation Aid Formula over the next three years,” said Wendy Lecker, Education Law Center Senior Attorney. 

This year, ERSCD will see a 19% increase in state Foundation Aid and a one-time allocation of federal emergency COVID-19 relief, totaling over $150 million.  

“History has shown the East Ramapo Board cannot be trusted to use these increased funds for the benefit of the district’s public school students,” Ms. Lecker added. “It is crucial, therefore, that lawmakers quickly enact the East Ramapo Monitor Bill to ensure an end to the Board pattern of sabotaging the rights of ERCSD students to a constitutional sound basic education.”

Since 2012, ELC has litigated to enforce the rights of New York public school students to a sound basic education under the State Constitution, including the right of East Ramapo students to effective State oversight of their public schools.  ELC also is on the legal team in the pending NYSER v. State school funding lawsuit.            

 

Related Stories:

PARENTS DEMAND SWIFT STATE ACTION TO SAFEGUARD CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS OF EAST RAMAPO STUDENTS

EDUCATION LAW CENTER JOINS MAJOR NEW YORK SCHOOL FUNDING CASE

 

Press Contact:

Sharon Krengel
Policy and Outreach Director
skrengel@edlawcenter.org
973-624-1815, x 24