Rabbi Avi Shafran’s complaint (“Social Injustice And The Ramapo School Board,” Opinion, May 2) about the state aid formula used for East Ramapo is unquestionably and maybe eternally valid, but it has little to do with the disaster that the East Ramapo School District has become, a fact that in itself is undoubtedly fostering anti-Semitism in the Hudson Valley and beyond.
When my late father was a member, and then president, of the board of education of the school district that is now known as East Ramapo in the 1960s, there was little question that the public school district, then among the largest in the state, was also among the best in the state. There were published projections that it would become much larger and that even more schools would be needed. Much of the population consisted of middle-class Jewish and Catholic families who could have, but did not choose to, send their children to parochial schools.
I remember my father’s constant complaint at the time that the school district was being drastically shortchanged by inadequate state aid, and school taxes as a result were too high, but the population at the time was generally willing to pay the price.
What changed? The only major change is what the rabbi calls an “odd demographic.” That is, only one-third of the students in the school district now attend public schools. Much of the middle class with children of school age has moved elsewhere. Public school supporters understood that someone who struggles to pay for a parochial education would not support public education the way it needs to be supported in order to have first-class schools.
While East Ramapo may never again become a viable public school district, the lessons have not been lost on others in Rockland and Orange counties. There is a palpable fear that the same thing could happen to the public schools in their communities as the numbers of families sending children to parochial schools increase. The resulting loss in public educational quality and property values is their major concern, even more than the inability to relate to or socialize with haredim and others.
Could anyone doubt that this fear of being displaced or economically injured gives rise to anti-Semitism?