Politico 6/9/16: Plan for ER Monitor Veto Power Still Being Discussed

POLITICO New York

Date: Thu, Jun 9, 2016 at 4:53 PM

Plan to give East Ramapo school monitors veto power still up for discussion

By Keshia Clukey06/09/2016 04:50 PM EDT

ALBANY – A plan to give a state-appointed team of monitors veto power over the East Ramapo school district could be included in the omnibus “big ugly” bill that concludes the legislative session, a Rockland County lawmaker told POLITICO New York on Thursday.

Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee, who represents East Ramapo, attended a meeting Thursday afternoon with the leaders of the State Assembly and Senate in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office. Two other Rockland County lawmakers, Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski, a Democrat, and Sen. David Carlucci, a member of the Independent Democratic Conference, also attended.

Jaffee would not discuss details of a potential deal involving the school district, but said she was “very optimistic.”

East Ramapo schools have suffered deep cuts to programs and staffing at the hands of the school board, which is controlled by the area’s Orthodox Jewish community whose members send their children to private yeshivas. State leaders and advocacy groups have accused the board of making decisions that favor private school students at the expense of public school children, many of whom are low-income, have disabilities or are immigrants who don’t speak English.

It’s been nearly a year since the State Education Department put in place a team of monitors to oversee the district and help it to turnaround.

The district, under new superintendent Deborah Wortham, has set a new, transparent set of priorities and enhanced relationships with key members of the community, the monitors have said. The state budget also includes $250,000 to maintain the monitor team through the 2016-17 school year.

Advocates, the state Board of Regents and the monitors have recommended giving the team additional powers.

A bill in the Assembly , sponsored by Jaffee, would give the monitors the ability to override the school board or superintendent. Legislation allowing for veto power passed the Assembly last year but failed to make it to a vote in the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan in January said he opposed the measure.

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