Ramapo School Board – Overlooking Obligations

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This is a partial reprint of a New York Times article from 2014. It focuses on the deterioration of the East Ramapo Central School District’s public schools at the hands of the Yeshivas which number, as of today 84 registered in the County of Rockland, and 640 Yeshivas on the books and records of tax exempt organizations on the IRS website. If this makes no sense to you, that’s good because it makes no sense to us either. With all of the coverage on the issue of the public school students versus the money filtered out of public education into the private Yeshivas throughout Rockland County (and Toms River/Lakewood, New Jersey, Monroe-Woodbury, New York amongst others), there have been no improvements. To the contrary, things are only getting worse. We thought the reprint relevant. We credit the New York Times for the story.

LostMessiah, March 1, 2016

A School Board That Overlooks Its Obligation to Students

 

Their intent was to recreate the shtetls of Eastern Europe in the leafy precincts of Rockland County. Now 19,000 Hasidic children here attend yeshivas while about 11,000 or so black, Latino and Haitian children attend the once well-integrated public schools.

Voting in disciplined blocs, ultra-Orthodox Jewish residents elected leaders to the school board. An Orthodox-dominated board ensured that the community’s geometric expansion would be accompanied by copious tax dollars for textbooks and school buses.

(The state Education Department has ruled that the district could not use public dollars to place disabled Orthodox children in Yiddish-speaking yeshivas when less restrictive public classrooms were available. The school board is appealing.)

Public education became an afterthought. Schools were closed and sold off or rented to yeshivas, at sweet discounts. (An appraiser was indicted last year, accused of taking a handsome bribe for a low appraisal.)

Oscar Cohen, white-haired, Jewish and a local resident in his eighth decade, has rallied the opposition, including secular Jews, Central Americans and blacks, among them Betty Carmand, who will gather at a news conference on Tuesday to call for state action. He acknowledges their conundrum: The forms of democracy have perpetrated what looks a lot like injustice.

He tried to talk with the ultra-Orthodox school board. “Early on I figured we needed trust,” he said. “We had a few meetings and they essentially said, ‘We have the power and you don’t.’ ”

Dissent became another flashpoint. After blacks, Latinos and secular Jews complained loudly, perhaps rudely, at public meetings last year, the board chairman at the time, Daniel Schwartz, peered dourly at the audience.

“It’s become apparent to the board that there is a group of miscreants in the community,” he said.

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