Join us in Albany on Wednesday, June 10, 2015 for a press conference and meetings with legislative leaders on this critical issue. 

  • In preparation for the events on June 10, please join us for a conference call on Monday, June 8 at 8 pm. Will provide background information, talking points and logistics for Wednesday. RSVP here.
  • The press conference will begin at 9:30 am at Empire State Plaza in Albany, NY.
  • Legislative meetings will begin at 11 am in the Legislative Office Building or the Capitol Building.
  • RSVP for the June 10 events here.

This advocacy day is being organized by the Religious Action Center, Reform Jewish Voice of New York State, Strong East Ramapo and Rockland Clergy for Social Justice.

Clergy in East RamapoThere is a bill before the New York State Legislature that would provide the much-needed oversight of the East Ramapo School district, where public school students are being deprived of educational opportunities because of the ruinous decisions of the school board members.

The East Ramapo School District in Rockland County, NY includes a large Orthodox Haredi community and a large African American and Hispanic immigrant community. The East Ramapo School Board is composed of 70% Haredi members, even though most Haredi children in this school district attend private yeshivas and most African American and Hispanic children attend the public schools.

While this arrangement is legal and the members of the School Board appear to have won their elections fairly, the Board’s motives and actions have been called into question. In the last few years, many classes, extracurricular activities and staff have been cut at the local public schools. There are also accusations of the School Board selling public school buildings to yeshivas at below market rates and sending Haredi children to yeshivas using public money by illegally exploiting special education laws.

If passed, A. 5355/S. 2381 would allow the state to appoint a non-partisan monitor to oversee the decisions of the school board and, if necessary, override the board’s decisions to ensure that the public school students’ civil rights are being protected and that they are able to access a high-quality, sound education as promised in the New York State Constitution.

This bill, and the state-appointed monitor it would put in place, respects the democratic electoral system by keeping the elected school board members in their roles, while also allowing the monitor, when needed, to override the board in order to protect the public schools and students. Oversight will also help repair the divides in the community that have formed as a result of the school board’s decisions. Additionally, A. 5355/S. 3821 does not create a new precedent for state-level involvement in local education issues. In 2002, the legislature went much further in oversight of a school district on Long Island. And, this bill pertains only to East Ramapo – no other school district – and the unique situation this community is facing.

Sadly, supporters of the school board have been successful in convincing some members of the New York Legislature that this bill is anti-Semitic, or has anti-Semitic motives. These claims are false. Oversight for the East Ramapo School Board is not about the religious beliefs of the school board’s members, but rather ensuring that the civil rights of the predominantly low-income children of color who attend the public schools are protected.

On Wednesday, the Assembly Education Committee passed the bill out of committee, an important step. Now the bill will go to Ways and Means before a vote on the Assembly floor.

This excellent Op-Ed in the New York Times describes the situation in East Ramapo and why we must take action.

Transparency and oversight are crucial first steps to repairing the public schools, students’ educational opportunities and the rifts that have been created because of this deeply concerning situations. We must pass A. 5355/S. 2381 to support public education and to protect civil rights in East Ramapo.

Take action today and let your State Senator and Assembly Member know that you support A. 5355/S. 2381.