Journal News 5/26/17: ER School Budget Revote scheduled on June 20

East Ramapo preps for budget revote

A re-vote is scheduled for June 20. Kimberly Redmond/lohud

During a meeting on Thursday night, Superintendent Deborah Wortham unveiled a preliminary budget that calls for a 1.49 percent tax levy increase. Information on how this would affect property tax bills was not available.

The $231.6 million spending plan does not bring back busing for private schools on district holidays — at least, not during the upcoming academic year. The defeated budget included up to 14 days of transportation.

Read more…

Strong East Ramapo 5/27/17: ER School Budget Revised by Superintendent Focuses on Public School Needs

Andrew Mandel writes:

Hi everyone,

The Superintendent’s revisions to the failed May 16 budget are correctly focused on critical student needs; the question is: will the budget change between now and June 6 (when it is due to the Commissioner), and will voters approve it on June 20?

On Thursday night, the Superintendent presented a budget that puts improving education as its laser-like priority, just like the law requires. This budget — which includes critical investments in English language learning, special education and summer learning — does not break the tax cap.

While Rivkie Feiner, a non-public school advocate, voiced her desire to see more busing as part of the budget, the proposal does not include additional non-mandated non-public transportation. State Commissioner Elia had previously rejected such a line item given the law that says the budget needs to focus on expanding educational programming. Let’s hope that the non-public school community can appreciate the desperate need for all of the educational improvements in this year’s budget; the district could attempt to find ways to include additional days of non-public transportation through means that don’t cost additional money, such as aligning calendars better. Non-public school families also ought to be reminded that they are already getting benefits above and beyond what the law requires, not having “streamlined” busing with one drop-off and pick-up time like Ramapo Central School District.

Please send Dr. Wortham ( your support of the budget she presented on Thursday. The district still needs to officially adopt this budget, and the Commissioner needs to agree as well.  According to the Journal News, the monitors are supportive of the superintendent’s revised budget: The district’s state-appointed monitor Charles Szuberla said reintroducing busing into the budget “does need to be a discussion in future years” but for now the district needs to focus on rebuilding public schools. John Sipple, also a monitor, agreed, saying, “We need to move forward and we need to reinvest.”
Taken directly from the slides shown last night, the budget includes:

• Expand Summer Learning (Grades 2-8)
• Maintain Full-Day Kindergarten
• Expand “The Arts” Instruction (3 Teachers)
• Expand ENL and Bilingual Instruction (5 Teachers)
• Includes Academic Standards Facilitators

• Includes Summer Learning (Music)
• Includes The Arts Instruction
• Expands ENL Instruction (3 Teachers)
• Includes Academic Standards Facilitators
• Expand Kakiat STEAM to Grade 8
• Balance Enrollment

High School:
• Effective Instruction (8 teachers)
• Reframing Food Services Delivery
• Teacher Collaborative Model
• Academic Standards Facilitators
• Expand ENL and Bilingual Instruction (4 Teachers)

Special Education:
•Increase Collaborative Classes
•Grades 3-12
•24 Classes
• Increase Clinical Services
•Speech and Language, Occupational, Behavior Specialists

Strong East Ramapo
twitter: StrongERamapo

Strong East Ramapo 5/20/17: June 20 Revote on ER School Budget

Andrew Mandel writes:
Hi everyone,
Here’s a link to the latest article on the road to the revised budget:
Below is a reaction from district resident David Curry on Facebook this morning.
We will need all hands on deck on Tuesday, June 20, so please be ready!
Will keep you posted on news,
Paying taxes to support public education is part of the social contract in this country. If you want to “get something” for the school taxes you pay, then by all means send your kids to public school! Nobody forces you to use a private school, that’s your choice. But when you made that choice, you (should have) accepted the costs that came along with making it. The notion that the public school system now “owes” you something for that is absurd.
Earlier this week, an Iowa woman wrote a letter to the editor that went viral. She wrote:
“I ask, why should I pay for a bridge I don’t cross, a sidewalk I don’t walk on, a library book I don’t read?
Why should I pay for a flower I won’t smell, a park I don’t visit, or art I can’t appreciate? Why should I pay the salaries of politicians I didn’t vote for, a tax cut that doesn’t affect me, or a loophole I can’t take advantage of?
It’s called democracy, a civil society, the greater good. That’s what we pay for.”

Strong East Ramapo 5/22/17: ER Students Falling Further Behind Grade Levels

Andrew Mandel writes:
We have critical ​new information that doubles down on the need for resources directed to public education in the revised East Ramapo budget.
In a new video in which Dr. Wortham is celebrating student growth, the numbers show that district students are falling further and further behind grade level. Students appear not on track to making a year’s worth of progress — let alone the additional ground they need to catch up to be proficient — in a year’s time.

For example, eighth graders entered the year at a 5.5 grade level (the middle of fifth grade, or 2.5 years behind where they ought to be). As of April, those students were at a 6.2 grade level (the beginning of sixth grade), which means that they are now almost three grade levels behind! First graders who entered the year at 1.3 in reading (above a first-grade level) had progressed to a 1.6 (up 0.3) from September to April, meaning they will enter second grade behind.

Before Dr. Wortham came to the district, we didn’t even know how students were truly doing throughout the year. So, that’s actually a leap forward. Now, Dr. Wortham should be sounding the alarms, emphasizing the need for every dollar of the school budget to go toward improving student performance. What we are funding right now is totally insufficient to ensure the success of our teachers and students. The June 20 budget requires a total focus on improving public school performance. We must stop the backslide!

The law already stipulates the our budget should be focused on expanding educational programming. The tax-cap override failed, and the Commissioner has already rescinded budget approval when a tax-cap-compliant budget tried to include non-public transportation. But we cannot leave anything to chance.
Please e-mail,, and to say: “I’ve seen the new statistics where children in East Ramapo are falling further and further behind grade level. There’s no time to waste. This year’s revised budget must focus our resources on expanding educational programming, which the law requires, not on non-mandated, non-public transportation.”
June 20: School Budget Revote
twitter: StrongERamapo

Strong East Ramapo 5/17/17: Moving Forward; Focusing on Revised ER Budget

Andrew Mandel writes:

Hi everyone,

We helped stop budget blackmail last night, but we must now regroup and ensure that the students of East Ramapo get what they need next year. An austerity budget would create even more pain and rage — but an appropriate revised budget, which the district does has the power to put in front of voters on June 20th, could create some sense of forward motion.

I am glad to see that state representatives Ken Zebrowski, Ellen Jaffee and David Carlucci have written a letter to Commissioner Elia (attached) with two points: (1) the district should advance a revised budget to voters with the same level of services for public school students in the originally submitted tax-cap compliant budget and (2) the Commissioner should be reviewing this budget, given the law passed last June. This sounds promising, particularly if public school advocates are comfortable with the details before it is put to voters, and would give the Commissioner a chance to restore trust and faith in state involvement. While ERCSD meetings are often subject to change, please put the evening of TUESDAY, JUNE 4 on your calendar for the next school board meeting so that you can share your views on what will be happening with next year’s budget.

From the Zebrowski/Jaffee/Carlucci letter: “As you know, the budget did not receive more than the required sixty percent needed to override the tax cap. The budget’s failure places the strides that have been made in the past year at risk. An austerity budget would be detrimental to the students and would erase the restorations made to previously cut programs.

Despite the override’s failure, we believe that the district should put forth a revised budget to the voters which maintains the level of services for the public school students that were in the originally submitted tax cap compliant budget. The revised budget, which would be put to a vote on June 20th, should be subject to Commissioner’s approval under the provisions of Chapter 89 of 2016. Both the letter and spirit of the law requires that any “proposed budget for the next succeeding school year” be subject to a review by the Commissioner.

We feel that a budget review by your office would be appropriate given the divide in the community as seen in the budget vote’s results. This is an opportunity to bring all sides together around a budget that will continue to move the school district forward rather than deepening the divide.”

Thanks, everyone,

May 16: School Board Election
twitter: StrongERamapo

Unofficial Results of ER School Board Election 5/16/17

Re: East Ramapo Election and Budget Results

Despite efforts by public school advocates, the ER budget did not pass 9,986 voting “no” and 1,441 voting “yes”, and public school candidates did not win any board seats, about 10%, increase in public school, non-public school voters increased theirs by almost 20%.  Budget rejection=no transportation days for non-publics schools when public schools are closed and no override of state budget cap of 2%.

Non-public school voters may have been motivated, in part, by fear that East Ramapo might streamline non-public school busing like Ramapo Central did.

Focus will be to see a new budget, and not a contingency budget, in June that focuses on public school needs, not about taking away things from the non-public schools but rather prioritizing the needs of children who are still suffering from years of critical cuts.


Strong East Ramapo 5/16/17: Results of ER School Board Elections

Andrew Mandel writes:

Hi everyone,

The short version is: the budget did not pass (it wasn’t even close: 9,986 voting “no” and 1,441 voting “yes”), and our candidates did not win (while we increased our presence by about 10%, our opponents increased theirs by almost 20%).

There will be plenty to say in the days and weeks ahead. Right now, however, after spending an incredible day with such a special group of people, I am of course feeling very sad that our candidates will not be officially representing the district’s students as board members next year. I know they will be strong advocates regardless, but I wanted to see them with official decision-making authority over the system their families use every day. In my view, that is simply what is right. That did not happen tonight.

We ran an incredible campaign. Our candidates worked for over 100 days. We had over 100 volunteers over the course of the campaign, with people calling, knocking, chanting, donating, joining weekly conference calls, building billboards, posting lawn signs, driving vans, filming commercials, and dancing in gorilla costumes at the corner of 45 and 59 (really!). In the gymnasium tonight before we got the results, as I was going around and thanking everyone, I was — and am — quite confident that WE WON when it came to building our team. YOU ALL HAVE BEEN ABSOLUTELY AMAZING, and we have only begun the work of growing our team of diverse, committed, persistent advocates for public education.

Meanwhile, I have been told that non-public school voters were motivated, in part, by fear that East Ramapo might streamline non-public school busing like Ramapo Central did. We will need to understand those fears better in order to make greater in-roads in the future.

It is also the case that the opponents’ campaign was very well-organized on Election Day. Our excellent poll watchers reported upsetting incidents that do not serve to bolster people’s confidence in the process and must be investigated, but the result was decisive. Moreover, one of the new school board members, Joel Freilich, had reached out to me this week, extending an olive branch and wanting to have a meal regardless of the outcome of the race. If this was genuine, I hope that he and the other new school board members are prepared to demonstrate that they now represent 8,500 children attending public school and need to act as if these children were their children if they want to achieve unity and progress in the coming year.

To that end, we need to see a new budget in June that focuses on public school needs, as the law has stated. This is not about taking away things from the non-public schools but rather prioritizing the needs of children who are still bouncing back from years of critical cuts. So, a week or two of rest, but then back at it for the work in June and beyond.

Good night,


May 16: School Board Election
twitter: StrongERamapo

East Ramapo Underground & Power of Ten 5/13/17: Appeal to Vote in School Board Elections on May 16

East Ramapo Underground

VOTE NO on the Budget on May 16th

Vote for Allie Manigo, Eric Goodwin and Chevon Dos Reis

      First, the Board and Wortham, tried to deceive the Commissioner and sneak in 5 extra days of busing to the yeshiva’s . Then when caught, they demand and with the Commissioner as an enabler put in 14 extra days of busing.

With all the board’s lies, deceptions and broken promises do we really believe that they change next year? Hell NO!

This increase above the Tax Cap will also make taxpayers lose their rebate checks for this year! A double whammy to taxpayers.

Our only choice is to VOTE NO.  Read below an important message from Power Of Ten.

East Ramapo Underground

From Power of Ten
1) Budget Blackmail and Betrayal
There is no other way to say it. The superintendent, the monitors, and the commissioner were given an ultimatum: “Put $1.4 million into the budget for ultra-orthodox yeshivas, or we will vote the budget down.”
It was a test, and they failed.

The correct answer was given by Assembly member Ellen Jaffee, who said “While on the surface overriding the tax cap appears to be a long-term strategy, the board’s proposal will reverse the positive direction the district has taken and undermine the trust that together we have worked so hard to establish.”
We can longer have confidence that Commissioner Elia will act with integrity and sensitivity. We must hold her accountable for this betrayal of our trust.

2) NO Confidence
It is unacceptable and irresponsible to approve a budget based on quid-pro-quo deal and misrepresentations. Commissioner Elia should have known better. She must be held responsible.
Please sign the petition on the power of ten website calling on the NY State Board of Regents to cast a vote of no-confidence in Commissioner Elia, and for her to step down as Commissioner of Education.

3) NO on the budget
How can we adequately express our outrage over the deceptive and prejudicial budget deal? We are only given two choices: YES or NO. We were not included in the backroom deal-making. Even our one representative on the board was left out.

One writer to The Power of Ten expressed sadness over the decision she felt forced to make:
I am an educator as well as a taxpayer in the East Ramapo Central School District. I am extremely displeased and frustrated in the way the school board has been disenfranchising the public school children in this district. Since the time in which my own children have attended the public schools in the district, I have been witnessing a steady decline in the services, materials, etc. to which these students should be entitled.
Please do NOT approve any budget for East Ramapo that includes funding for non-mandated busing for non-public schools. All public school programs should be fully restored and adequately funded before considering expanding non-mandated services for non-public schools.
For the first time in over the thirty years that my husband and I have lived in the East Ramapo Central School District, we will not vote in favor of such a budget!!