New York State Education Department Commissioner John King is “prepared to take escalating action” to address problems within Rockland County’s East Ramapo Central School District, a district whose elected board is currently composed solely of fervently Orthodox Jews.
The commissioner also wants to enact a Board of Regents’ legislative proposal authorizing his department “to intervene in chronically underperforming districts.”
Meanwhile, Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski, whose Rockland County district includes East Ramapo, is proposing a school redistricting that would “partition territory to create a new public school district that better represents public school enrollment” in order to “develop a long-term solution to the challenges that have plagued the district over the past several years, according to a press release issued by his office.
In response to a petition asking that the state appoint an oversight monitor to take charge of the district’s financial and educational administration, King sent a letter noting that he shares the 4,994 petitioners’ “concerns regarding the district’s financial conditions and its effects on educational programming.”
The majority of schoolchildren living within the boundaries of the East Ramapo Central School District attend yeshivas, rather than public schools. According to Power of Ten, a grass-roots advocacy group that organized the petition, 90 percent of the public school students are black or Latino, of whom 67 percent qualify for free or reduced school lunches.
In recent years, the district’s board members, currently defendants a class-action lawsuit, have implemented dramatic budget cuts. They have also been accused of a wide range of misdeeds, including attempting to sell district property at below-market prices to Jewish institutions.
“Problems in the governance of East Ramapo are a substantial factor in the district’s chronic under-performance and current fiscal crisis,” states the petition to the commissioner, organized by Power of Ten, a grass-roots advocacy group.
“Unless you act now by appointing an oversight monitor, the crisis will deepen.”