Petition advocating for the rights of all children’s education 7/15/16

On July 15, Oscar Cohen, Education Chairman of the Spring Valley NAACP, wrote the following:

Naftuli Moster, executive director of Young Advocates for Fair Education (YAFFED),  has personally experienced the deprivation of the lack of secular education in ultra-Orthodox yeshivas.

YAFFED mission is to advocate for the inclusion of English, math, social studies, science, etc. in every child’s day, as prescribed by New York State  Law, in addition to religious studies.   Depriving children of these subjects is tantamount to withholding their right to educational opportunities.

Please click on the following link and consider signing the petition, and sharing it with those who may wish to advocate for children to receive a rounded ‘sound basic education’ as prescribed by New York State law.

Read petition…

Article by Andrew Mandel of Strong East Ramapo re the ERCSD Oversight Bill 7/4/16

Governor Cuomo has signed the East Ramapo oversight bill, affirming that the district indeed merits special attention to ensure all students receive the education they deserve.

The law authorizes the State Commissioner of Education to oversee the upcoming district budget to meet students’ needs. In addition, the Commissioner can either approve or deny the sales of public assets, capital contracts over $100,000 and reductions in restored programs.

The district will also be eligible for three million dollars in aid for the 2016-17 school year. Here’s what will happen, according to the law:

— “In order to receive such funds, the school district in consultation with the monitor or monitors shall develop a long term strategic academic and fiscal improvement plan within 6 months from the enactment of this act.” This step is already underway.

— “Such plan shall be submitted to the commissioner for approval.”

— “The board of education of the East Ramapo central school district must conduct a public hearing on the expenditure plan and shall consider the input of the community before adopting such plan.”

— “The commissioner shall disburse the funds after receiving satisfactory evidence from the East Ramapo central school district that the district has complied with the approved comprehensive expenditure plan and spent such funds pursuant to the approved expenditure plan.”

More to come, but the acknowledgement from the Legislature and the Governor that East Ramapo needs state intervention to oversee its budget is an important part of rebuilding trust in our public institutions. While we will need to advocate for continued oversight and additional funds in the years to come (so these e-mail updates are far from over!), fixing the leaky pipe — even for one year, as a start — has been a critical priority in this journey to justice. Thank you to the lawmakers and advocates who made this milestone possible.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned through our advocacy, it’s that democracy is slow and hard. I cannot reiterate enough that we are not satisfied and we are not done. But I hope you’ll enjoy your fireworks a little bit more this time around.

– Andrew Mandel

Journal News 7/8/16: Lakewood Busing Contract is a Conflict of Interest

Journal News

LETTER: Lakewood bus bill is an end-run around taxpayers

After defeating a tax referendum to fund busing, the citizens of Lakewood – especially seniors – were outwitted and double-crossed by Senator Singer, Assemblymen Kean, and Rible with a clever “end-run” (Bill No. 2049) that gives control of mandated busing to a consortium (read Igud). The bill creates a pilot consortium of private schools managed by the clerics who own the schools and requires the school board to remit about $16 million or more to the consortium annually.

The consortium will negotiate and manage a three year transportation contract. Any shortfall will be covered by the district (your taxes). The district is forbidden to provide courtesy busing. Then comes the doublecross: “If after providing the required pupil transportation any of the disbursed funds remain unspent, the consortium, as it deems appropriate, may provide courtesy busing to pupils who are … attending the nonpublic schools in the consortium.” That means secular courtesy busing is now legal. This bill mandates funding the consortium. This time you will pay.

Summary: The Igud will run the consortium with the power to spend tax dollars, which creates a de facto taxing authority. In ACLU v. Hendricks, the court ruled that it is unconstitutional to use taxpayers’ money to support the maintenance of any church or ministry and/or private interests. This conflict of laws victimizes public school kids and taxpayers.

Phillip DeCarlo,  Lakewood

Journal News 7/1/16: Cuomo Signs ER Oversight & Aid Bill

Journal News Friday, 7/1/16

ALBANY – Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill Thursday giving the state greater oversight of the deeply divided East Ramapo school system, with the district getting a $3 million boost in state funds.

The new law, which takes effect Friday, will allow state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia to appoint three monitors to oversee the Rockland County district, with the school board required to submit its budget proposal to the state for approval before putting it out to a vote.

State lawmakers came to an agreement on the bill in the waning days of the state Legislature’s annual session, which ended June 18.

The East Ramapo school board and public-school parents have frequently clashed in recent years amid bleak finances and allegations of mismanagement. The district is home to roughly 30,000 students, with about two-thirds of them attending private yeshivas or other non-public schools.

Cuomo’s approval was widely expected after he had previously signaled support for the bill.

Last year, the state Education Department appointed three monitors to oversee the school district, though they lacked the power to veto the school board’s decisions.

In order to receive the $3 million, the school board will put together a long-term plan to improve the district, along with detailed plans on how they will use the money. Along with its budget proposal, the long-term plan will be subject to Elia’s approval.

The new law will expire June 30, 2017.

6/30/16: Gov. Cuomo Signs ERCSD Compromise Legislation

East Ramapo’s children and their families had a first legislative success last night when Governor Cuomo signed into law, effective July 1,   a bill authorizing the continuation of monitors, an additional $3 million for restoration of programs, the development of a long-term improvement plan, and increased oversight of the district’s budget by the Commissioner. It is a significant, albeit modest, step to increasing accountability and transparency to the district.

The bill is to last for three years and provide $5 million/year to the district. The bill is a compromise, a first step on which to build further support to help make up for the long-term damage incurred by children in ER.

See the Bill below…

NYS Act to Increase Aid & Oversight of ERCSD 6-13-16


NAACP Letter 6/24/16 to Commissioner Elia re: Lease of ER Schools to Camps

On June 24/16, Willie Trotman, President of the Spring Valley NAACP, sent a letter to NYS Education Commissioner Elia advising her that several ERCSD school buildings had been leased by the Board to summer camps.  Mr. Trotman expresses concern that these camps only allow registration and participation by white children.

See the letter below…

NAACP ltr 6-24-16 re camps

NAACP 6/28/16: Letter to ERCSD Board re: Testing of School Water for Lead

Willie Trotman, the Spring Valley NAACP President, and parents Luis Nivelo and Betty Carmand, to East Ramapo School Board President Weissmandl expressing concern over East Ramapo as the only Rockland School District that has not had its drinking water tested for lead.  They requested that the Board not wait until September to begin testing, but begin immediately. Each of the seven other districts has had water testing done, notified parents/guardians, and have begun remediation where appropriate.

See letter below…

NAACP letter 6-24-16 to ERCSD Board re Lead Testing of School Water

NYS 6/15/16: Rockland Cty Legislators Announce ERCSD Compromise

Assemblyman Zebrowski, Assemblywoman Jaffee and Senator Carlucci announced late on June 14 their support and that of Governor Cuomo, Senate Leader Flanagan, Independent Democratic Caucus Leader Klein and Speaker Heastie, for an East Ramapo bill that will bring relief to students of the district. It’s not ideal, but represents a step in bringing back some services that have been eliminated or severely reduced  during past years. The bill also includes increased state monitoring of the District’s financial and instructional policies and actions.

See press release below…

NYS Press Release 6-14-16 – Rockland Cty Legislators Announce Compromise Bill for ER

Journal News 6/15/16: ERCSD to Have More NYS Aid & Oversight

East Ramapo: Deal reached for monitor, state aid

ALBANY – East Ramapo schools would have greater state oversight of their finances in exchange for a $3 million infusion of state aid as part of legislation expected to be approved this week.

Lawmakers and the school district on Tuesday said the sides are in agreement to pass the bill introduced late Monday that would find a legislative remedy for the troubled district after years of stalemate.

“After almost two years of contentious debate, this bill represents hope for the East Ramapo school district,” said Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski, D-New City. He said the measure offers “hope for meaningful oversight, restored opportunities and a future where both sides can come together for the best interests of the kids.”

Read more…

Politico 6/10/16: Plan for More NYS Oversight of ERCSD But No Veto Power

Compromise near on East Ramapo schools deal

Oversight would increase, but no veto power over board

ALBANY — Legislative leaders are nearing an agreement that would increase oversight over Rockland County’s troubled East Ramapo schools and provide $5 million a year to restore programs, but it does not include veto power over the school board, Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski told POLITICO New York.

“At some point I think it was incumbent upon us to try to find a compromise between both sides, given that we have kids in these classrooms that aren’t going to get a second chance,” the Rockland County Democrat said.

 The deal includes providing increased oversight power to not only the team monitoring the district, but also to state education commissioner Mary Ellen Elia.
Read more…