“Misguided and Counterproductive”: Agudath Israel of America’s Rockland Regional Office Statement on Proposed East Ramapo Takeover

Last week, outgoing New York Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski introduced a draconian bill (A10407) essentially calling for a state takeover of the East Ramapo Central School District (ERSCD). The proposal includes the installation of a fiscal control board among other drastic measures. This bill is a misguided effort which would completely overturn the will of the voters of the district as reflected through their democratically-elected school board.

Every child in ERSCD, whether attending a public or a private school, should have access to a quality education and receive essential services such as safe transportation to and from school. Public school students, like those in private school, deserve to be educated in well maintained school buildings. East Ramapo is unique in that most of its students attend yeshivas and other private schools and state law requires that those students are provided with certain basic services. This leaves the district with less room in their budget for their public school students and forced to make difficult decisions.

Sadly, this legislative effort is counterproductive and supports those who, instead of looking to craft real solutions, have often reverted to antisemitic tropes and false accusations of racism which only serve to further divide people and do nothing to improve the education of students in the district.

But the solution to the challenges of the district is not in calling for state takeovers, depriving deserving students of transportation, or imposing taxation without representation. The only lasting solution to this seemingly intractable problem is to solve the root of the problem, which is an inequitable formula for distribution of state foundation aid. The current formula which bases the aid on the number of public school students, can never suffice when more than three quarters of the district’s students attend yeshivas and other private schools which the district is required to serve. Until that point there will be no real solution to this serious matter. Solving this issue and rebuilding trust will require concerted efforts from all parties involved, including lawmakers, school board members, parents, and the New York State Education Department. Agudath Israel has been working with the district and interested lawmakers to address these issues and we invite other stakeholders to join us.

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