FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 17, 2014
CONTACT: Matt Wojtkun, 202-225-6506
Lowey Calls on Federal Department of Education to Expedite Investigations of East Ramapo Central School District
Congresswoman: “Expeditious review of federal complaints is essential to help resolve any and all concerns about the school district once and for all.”
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congresswoman Nita M. Lowey (Westchester/Rockland) today urged two offices at the U.S. Department of Education to expedite ongoing investigations into the appropriate use of federal funds and civil rights violations in the East Ramapo Central School District in the wake of the New York State Department of Education appointment of a monitor to review fiscal matters in the school district.
“As the Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Committee, parent and grandparent, former PTA president, and Ramapo’s representative in Congress, I support actions to ensure that the children in the East Ramapo Central School District receive the very best education possible,” said Lowey. “In the coming months, the State Monitor will be closely evaluating governance and fiscal practices of the school district. Expeditious review of federal complaints is essential to help resolve any and all concerns about the school district once and for all.”
While details are not available until completion of ongoing investigations, the U.S. Department of Education’s Inspector General recently confirmed that it is investigating matters related to the appropriate use of federal funds in ERCSD. The Department’s Office of Civil Rights is reviewing a complaint from the Spring Valley Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People regarding the school district. Lowey wrote a letter to both entities today calling for expeditious completion of these investigations. (See text below.)
Lowey said that federal funds for the school district increased in Fiscal Year 2014 as a result of her successful efforts on the House Appropriations Committee. ERCSD will receive approximately $20 million in federal assistance for 2014.
“We must work together at every level of government to ensure that all education funds are expended appropriately to give our children every opportunity for success,” Lowey concluded.
During the 17 months Lowey has represented Ramapo, she has engaged students, community leaders, and education advocates about the situation in the ERCSD, and she shared concerns with the U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in recent months. After learning about IBM initiatives to support local schools, Lowey encouraged ERCSD to pursue assistance and attended the May announcement of new IBM English literacy programs in ERCSD’s elementary schools at the Fleetwood School. Lowey spoke in March with students at Spring Valley High School about the loss of educational and extracurricular programs and in April addressed the National Honor Society induction at Ramapo High School. She has met with various groups of concerned parents and representatives from the Rockland Clergy for Social Justice among others.
Below is the text of the letter Lowey sent today:
June 17, 2014
Kathleen Tighe Catherine Lhamon Inspector General Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights U.S. Department of Education U.S.Department of Education 400Maryland Ave. SW 400 Maryland Ave. SW Washington DC 20202 Washington DC 20202
Dear Inspector General Tighe and Assistant Secretary Lhamon:
It is my understanding that both the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General and Office of Civil Rights are investigating the East Ramapo Central School District in my congressional district.
East Ramapo receives approximately $20 million in federal funding annually. I have previously discussed with Secretary Duncan my grave concerns about the quality of the education students in the school district receive.
As you may know, the New York State Education Department recently appointed a fiscal monitor to serve the school district in an advisory capacity to ensure that it is able to provide an appropriate educational program and properly manage and account for state and federal funds received. While I understand that you are unable to disclose details of ongoing investigations, I encourage you to expedite federal investigations related to the school district.
As federal officials, we have a responsibility to ensure that taxpayer dollars are not misspent and to ensure that all federal education funds are used to give American students the very best education possible. I thank you for your work and look forward to your findings.
Nita M. Lowey Member of Congress