Congresswoman Lowey Urges Quick Investigation of ERCSD Finances


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


Journal News: East Ramapo School Board Insulted by Lottery Fund

East Ramapo ‘insulted’ by early lottery aid deal

Mareesa Nicosia, 11:49 p.m. EDT June 11, 2014

SPRING VALLEY – As the deadline approaches for the East Ramapo school district to claim a $3.5 million state aid advance, officials are digging in their heels on a decision to reject the money unless a community oversight stipulation is lifted.

Read more…

East Ramapo Board President Challenges Monitor Appointment

East Ramapo monitor: Board president says state gave in to bigots

Mareesa Nicosia, 12:32 a.m. EDT June 14, 2014

SPRING VALLEY – The president of the East Ramapo school board accused top state education officials of sanctioning bigotry, lashing out in response to the state’s appointment this week of a fiscal monitor to review the district’s shaky financial situation.

Read more…

Journal News 6/11/14: Cuomo Appoints Monitor for ERCSD

East Ramapo schools assigned state fiscal monitor

Joseph Spector and Mareesa Nicosia 11:55 a.m. EDT June 11, 2014

ALBANY – The state Education Department said Tuesday it will install a fiscal monitor for the troubled East Ramapo school district after Gov. Andrew Cuomo called on the state to step up its oversight.

Read more…

New York Times 5/28/14: Mayor does not Speak Out at Jewish Gala

 The New York Times

N.Y. / Region

At a Jewish Gala, de Blasio Skips His Cue to Speak Out

MAY 28, 2014

Tests of courage are found in unexpected places.

On Tuesday night, Mayor Bill de Blasio attended a gala for Agudath Israel of America, a premier event for the black-hat leaders of the ultra-Orthodox Jews of New York. The mayor is a gregarious fellow, and as my colleague Sharon Otterman reported, he chatted and joked on the dais with numerous rabbis, some of whom endorsed his mayoral campaign.

Read more…

The Journal News 5/17/14: 60 Years after Brown v. Bd of Ed We Must Still Do More

Editorial: Equal education hurdles remain

A Journal News editorial 11:19 p.m. EDT May 17, 2014

Lower Hudson Valley communities have often played key roles in the struggle to desegregate schools. Sixty years after Brown vs. Board of Education, we must do more.

Sixty years ago, the landmark Supreme Court ruling, Brown vs. Board of Education, was hailed as lighting the path to equality in our schools, and opportunity for all. Yet, education and opportunity — which go hand in hand — remain limited.

Read more…

Bloomberg News 5/9/14: Cuomo Drawn into Backlash vs. Hasidic Influence in NYC Exurbs

Hasidim Spark Backlash in NYC Exurbs That Entangles Cuomo

By Freeman Klopott May 9, 2014 9:58 AM ET
Photographer: Stan Honda/AFP via Getty Images

Community groups fighting the growing influence of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish population in New York City’s northwestern exurbs are joining forces to counter the Hasidic bloc vote in this year’s gubernatorial election.

Read more…

The Jewish Week 5/1/14: East Ramapo Needs More than Funding Formula Chamges

A Response To Rabbi Avi Shafran

More than funding formula changes are needed to fix a school board plagued by acrimony and dysfunction.

Thu, 05/01/2014
Rabbi Ari Hart
Rabbi Ari Hart

Rabbi Avi Shafran recently offered a passionate defense of the actions of the Charedi dominated East Ramapo Public School Board. I trust that that Rabbi Shafran’s intentions are honorable – to strengthen the Jewish people and create a fairer education system, and I welcome the debate. For too long this issue has been whispered about or ignored in our community.