New York made an accounting error that cost public schools $12 Million, while overpaying charter schools by that amount. “The $12 million misallocation is about 7.8 percent of the $153 million the state distributed to its Local Educational Agencies in 2017-18 for Title IIA, which supports professional development initiatives such as teacher training, recruitment and […]
Note to our readers: We made the decision to share this blog because notably, at least two of the Charter Schools that were overpaid were schools for ultra-Orthodox students, while one of the underfunded schools was the East Ramapo Central School District, a system that has arguably been ravaged by the ultra-Orthodox community of Rockland County, New York.
Ramapo Nears Breaking Point: Special Report – The Journal News
Community Outreach Center’s Hersh Horowitz Presides Over “ESCSD Funeral”
*Vote NO on the bond*
New York State Education Department Commissioner Mary-Ellen Elia toured East Ramapo today, campaigning for a $58 million capital improvements bond that worries longtime advocates for the public schools. Thanks to the New York State Senate’s failure to enact legislation appointing a veto-empowered monitor in the district, the scandal-ridden East Ramapo Board of Education can continue its wholesale dismembering of the district.
In reviewing where East Ramapo is now, and where it’s likely to be going, we must see the forest for the trees. While the bond would provide short-term assistance in the form of crucial building improvements, public school advocates worry that is just a stepping stone to a long-term plan of selling district buildings to yeshivas.
As it stands now, the outlook for East Ramapo is woefully dim. The class-action civil rights lawsuit filed against board members in 2012 has been voluntarily withdrawn with prejudice; the board members who were alleged to have facilitated unconstitutional policies and illegal sales of schools will not be held accountable for those alleged actions. The “monitor” on the ground now has no veto power – and his contract is due to expire before implementations of bond proposals, should the bond pass, even commence. The stage is set for the taxpayers to fund, via capital improvements, the eventual sale of more school buildings, a cruel irony that only this Board of Education could serve up.
Meanwhile, thousands of students in Hasidic yeshivas are systemically denied a sound basic education. The New York State Education Department, ultimately subordinate to Governor Cuomo, has turned a blind eye to the educational neglect that runs rampant in Ramapo. What’s worse is these schools are nonetheless receiving tens of millions of dollars in taxpayer funds – on the local, state and Federal level. As we covered last week, third- and fourth-generation Americans in the Hasidic community are functionally illiterate in English. This despite tens of millions of dollars in Title funding purported to be used for the sole purpose of teaching English!
All of this Title funding flows through and is disbursed by the Community Outreach Center, run by Rabbi Hersh Horowitz.
If any picture says a thousand words, it’s the one below. We see Commissioner Elia, “pitching” the no-strings-attached $58 million bond to a room full of local yeshiva leaders. And at the speaker’s podium, as if eulogizing the public schools and giving a victory speech for yeshivas, is none other than Rabbi Hersh Horowitz.
Our series of articles on the Community Outreach Center and Rabbi Horowitz may be viewed here:
I-Team: Homes in NY Town Taken Over for Religious Schooling, Residents Say
Residents in the Rockland County town of Ramapo claim town officials are allowing single-family homes on small residential lots to be turned into religious schools with little or no public notice.
Suffern resident Annette Doerr said she has been battling the conversion of a home next door into an ultra-Orthodox school for several years. Doerr told the I-Team she believes there are more than 200 students in the four-bedroom house but has been unable to get specific information.
“It’s six days a week,” she said. “Whenever they’re on recess, we can’t be outside.”
“It’s too dangerous, it’s too dense,” she added. “The home was meant for a family.”
The property manager declined to tell the I-Team how many students attend the school.
Minna Greenbaum, another Suffern resident, said there are areas where almost every property on a block is a school or religious institution.
“The town turns a blind eye,” she said. “Everything is allowed.”
Residents said they are not opposed to schools if there is sufficient property to accommodate the students and buses safely.
Resident Peter Katz recently filed a lawsuit over a school that’s being developed on a nearby lot.
“A friend of mine owned this house, sold it to someone, and the very next thing, I discovered by accident it’s being converted to a school,” Katz said. “There was no public notice.”
Members of the Spring Valley Fire Department, which responds to emergency calls in the town of Ramapo, said they are especially concerned about modular trailers being moved onto residential lots as classrooms to accommodate students.
“We don’t even get the fire plans, and that’s the biggest thing,” said Captain Justin Schwartz. “It gets approved without us saying so. It’s a crime.”
The town of Ramapo passed a law limiting the use of “temporary” trailers to a maximum of two years. Democratic Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski said town officials have allowed the proliferation of “permanent” trailers to be used without proper enforcement.
He said he believes the New York Department of State should take over Ramapo’s building department.
“This is a willful, systemic ignoring of the law by those that are in charge, and when you have that, the State needs to step in,” he said.
Michael Klein, attorney for the town of Ramapo, told the I-Team that schools with permits are safe.
“The town of Ramapo will not issue a permission of occupancy permitting property to be used as a school unless it meets all fire and building codes,” he said.
“Whether people like the growing size of the community and the need to address the growing population, that’s a quality of life issue and people have different views of that,” he added.
Census figures for 2015 to 2016 showed there are 24,000 non-public school students in the East Ramapo school district and 8,500 public school students.
A School District Whose Children Have Been Raped of an Education and $3M in State Aid
It does not matter in East Ramapo whether you are Orthodox, ultra-Orthodox, secular, Hispanic, Black, White, or Green because all of East Ramapo’s children have been deprived of an education.
In the public schools in East Ramapo despite the best efforts of teachers, parents and activists the resources have been scarce and the schools in disrepair, leaving the public school children to study without proper textbooks, in classrooms known to leak during rainstorms. The schools of that district barely offer core classes. There are few art classes, if any and music is a luxury.
The public schools in East Ramapo, once the best in the State, lack the resources necessary to provide an education consistent with New York State mandates. Funding is grossly inadequate and the Board of Education, comprised in disproportionate part of ultra-Orthodox men blames the State.
There is no acknowledgement on the part of the Trustees of the East Ramapo Board of Education and their spokespeople that money has been siphoned off for years for the ultra-Orthodox and Orthodox religious education. The premise has been that there are more private school, Yeshiva educated children and more resources should be provided for their edcuation. Separation of Church and State be damned.
In contrast the private Yeshivas, funded with public taxpayer money, have the resources but the children are deprived an education by an establishment which actively chains them to functional illiteracy, mathematical ignorance and a non-science based religious education… in Yiddish. Separation of Church and State, an unknown concept.
Presently there is a public meeting at Rockland Community College, located in East Ramapo intended to explain how $3M in New York State aid will be allocated. Perhaps Church and State can walk on separate sides of the road….
Lohud reported on September 27, 2016
Full-day kindergarten and other programs will start Oct. 6
The state education commissioner has approved the East Ramapo school district’s plan for using $3 million in state aid to create universal full-day kindergarten and restore arts programs in grades K-6, among other initiatives.
Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said Monday that she had given her blessing to the plan, and also said she would join state-appointed monitors Charles Szuberla and John Sipple at a public meeting to discuss the initiatives at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Rockland Community College’s Cultural Arts Center, 145 College Road, Ramapo.
Full-day kindergarten and other programs will start Oct. 6, according to a district spokesperson.
The district conducted its own public hearing to receive community input on the expenditure plan on Sept. 7. The school board approved the plan on Sept. 13 and it was submitted to Elia on Sept. 20.
“These plans represent the district’s path forward to ensure progress continues and to ensure the educational rights of every East Ramapo student are met,” Commissioner Elia said in a statement. “Chuck Szuberla, John Sipple and Superintendent Wortham have worked as quickly as possible to put a long-term strategic academic and fiscal improvement plan in place that is both thorough and thoughtful. It continues the work already done to repair the trust of the East Ramapo community, while recognizing there is still work to do.”
The $3 million in supplemental funding was approved under a state oversight law that required the development of the strategic academic plan, as well as a comprehensive expenditure plan, in consultation with Szuberla.
In 2012, East Ramapo went from full-day to half-day kindergarten amid $14 million worth of budget cuts. Last year, two sections were added. Four new full-day kindergarten classes were included in the district’s $224 million budget approved by voters in May.
Here’s what’s being proposed for the $3 million:
$1.2 million to hire six monolingual kindergarten teachers and four bilingual kindergarten teachers.
Up to 11 sections of full-day kindergarten would be created, depending upon the number of children who enroll.
The bulk of kindergarten funding, $670,000, would go towards salaries, while the remainder would cover classroom materials, instructional technology and building adjustments to accommodate new classes.
Restoring art, music, dance and theater classes for students in grades K-6 will cost around $1.7 million.
The district aims to hire 12 teachers for arts instruction, the majority of whom were previously laid off and are on the preferred eligibility list (PELL).
THE DESTRUCTION OF PUBLIC SCHOOLS BY THE ULTRA-ORTHODOX DRAINING FUNDING AND RESOURCES AND NOT PROVIDING A “SUBSTANTIALLY SIMILAR” EDUCATION WITH PUBLIC FUNDS – METHODOLOGY
We are seeing it happen often. The ultra-Orthodox take over a school board, drain resources, sell property. It is our own faults for not getting out to vote. The ultra-Orthodox hostile takeover of public education in the United States is a well-earned victory; they get out and vote in droves. Once they have a school district in their control, where the money used to pay for resources and education goes, well… that is not so well-earned.
In the case of East Ramapo Central School District, the people got out and voted and they spoke, loudly. A former principal was elected to the position on the school board. The ultra-Orthodox majority responded by sabotaging her victory. The requirement was that she be sworn in within 30 days of her appointment. So, what did the ultra-Orthodox members of the school board do? They kept postponing the swearing in ceremony. Until, lo-and-behold, the 30 days had come and gone. And then what? They appointed someone ultra-Orthodox to the post, someone no one knows, someone whose own kids attend private schools, someone clearly intent upon destroying the public education there. And, worst still he is someone who does not even live at the address listed – Fawn Hill Drive. Rather, the house is rented.
Yesterday an article came out in the Forward, reprinted here, about a recent Satmar decree that women are forbidden from attending universities and colleges. In other words, women are forbidden from getting educated. Moreover, any woman who chooses to get educated will be precluded from teaching at Satmar schools. One commenter to that post rightfully pointed out the impossibility of providing a “substantially similar” education if those teaching the classes are uneducated. That is a requirement in much of the United States in exchange for funding to private school using public taxpayer funds. Taxpayers, most of whom are not ultra-Orthodox, not even Jewish, are paying the taxes siphoned by school boards like the ultra-Orthodox minted East Ramapo Central School District school board, to be used to fund private yeshivas.
There is a lot wrong with this picture…. Unless, of course, you are ultra-Orthodox. Can we even wonder why there is so much hostility toward the utlra-Orthodox community in New York?
East Ramapo trustee accused of using phony address
Calls for the resignation of a newly-appointed member of the East Ramapo School Board are mounting amid accusations that the trustee does not live at his reported address.
Since Joe Chajmovicz’s appointment to a vacant seat in July, the school board has been criticized for naming someone not widely known to the public school community, and district parents have demanded he step down to allow for someone with ties to local education be named.
One of those parents, Romel Alvarez, said this past weekend, a group of about 15 people went to an address in Airmont, on Fawn Hill Drive, that Chajmovicz claims is his home, but discovered a family was renting it out.
“We went there to protest for him to resign his seat,” said Alvarez, who has been vocal at recent school board meetings on the matter. “We’re going to keep visiting there, each week, until he resigns. We’re not going away.”
A district spokesman insisted Chajmovicz has lived at the address in Airmont for the last seven years. Requests to the spokesman to be put in touch with Chajmovicz or to receive a statement for further comment were refused.
It’s unclear if Chajmovicz ever actually lived at the home on Fawn Hill Drive, though public records list it as his address starting in 2010, and a phone number was once listed under a Lisa Lefkovich at the address. Lisa Lefkovich is listed in other public records as Lisa Chajmovicz.
The home on Fawn Hill Drive is owned by a man named Moshe Solinsky as of March 2015, according to records.
A call to the number listed for the home was not returned. When a reporter visited the house Wednesday afternoon, no one answered the door. The landscaping was not well maintained, a trash can sat on the stoop, partially blocking the front door, and the aluminum siding was dirty.
Chajmovicz, 41, has two daughters, both of whom attend private schools, and works in the real estate business. He has also been involved in the development of affordable housing, according to another district spokesman, Darren Dopp.
After he was picked for the seat, the district touted Chajmovicz’s skills with finances and communications. However, the new trustee declined a request for an interview at the time.
Local education advocates, as well as the Spring Valley NAACP, are continuing to question why Jean Fields, a retired Ramapo High School principal and co-chair of the chapter’s education committee, was not selected to serve the balance of Engel’s term. They have asked Chajmovicz to forfeit his seat to allow for someone else, such as Fields, to be appointed.
ROBISON: How, exactly, should a ‘school’ be defined?
The complex world in which we live demands clarity in the definitions that are used, and, proper application of those definitions during the decision making process. One such case is the question of exactly what constitutes a school.
The importance of this issue is readily apparent in Lakewood, where there are now over 125 nonpublic schools, and land use laws that permit a school to placed just about anywhere. Less than one-third are listed on the New Jersey Department of Education website as a recognized or accredited school.
However, the importance of clear definitions that are properly used is pertinent to every municipality and school district. The impact of poor definitions, or disregard for clearly established definitions, on the local planning process and the taxpayers’ burden is significant.
The crux of the issue pertaining to schools is captured in the question: Does an entity that provides any form of education automatically qualify as a school or must that entity meet standards that have been developed by the state Department of Education, various statutes and subsequent court decisions?
There is a fundamental difference between a religious education center and a school. While the former is an absolutely essential element in our society, where freedom of religion and separation of church and state are cornerstones of a functioning democracy, such centers should not automatically qualify for various forms of support such as the busing of students or other state and local aid.
The religious education that occurs must be in addition to, and not in place of, the basic education that is required to be provided by a school before public support of any kind is provided. Dare I say a “thorough and efficient” education must be provided?
We must also constructively differentiate between vocational education and religious education at the secondary level. Entities such as the Ocean and Monmouth County Vocational School Districts do provide career training but they also provide basic academic training in-house or in concert with a local school district. These districts meet the compulsory education requirements.
In comparison, I submit that meeting the requirements of ordination in just about every faith requires study above and beyond the secondary level at an accredited university such as Beth Madresh Govoha or Princeton Seminary. Religious education at the secondary level and beyond, which is the choice of the student or parent, is above and beyond the compulsory education requirements established in New Jersey.
Similarly, if an applicant to a local zoning board of adjustment incorrectly defines a religious education center as a school, then the special privileges and considerations afforded to an inherently beneficial use should not apply.
The value of being treated as an inherently beneficial use must not be underestimated. It is significant. Depending on the specific wording of the local planning and zoning ordinance(s) an inherently beneficial use provides an opportunity for exceptions to established zoning standards without having to outline the positive and negative criteria that may result from the proposed project.
Zoning requirements play a major role in establishing the character of a neighborhood not to mention the market value of the land and improvements in that neighborhood. The burden of proof must rest with the entity claiming to be a school in order to be treated as an inherently beneficial use before a local zoning board.
Defining an entity as a school for either public funding or treatment as an inherently beneficial use does not create an undue burden. For example, in the case of secondary school-age children does an entity claiming to be a school issue a diploma that is sanctioned or recognized by the state? For both secondary and elementary age school children is there a curriculum that is actually implemented by a state approved teaching staff that provides basic instruction that will allow a child to advance academically and grow into a contributing member of society?
Every school board and municipal governing body has an excruciatingly difficult challenge when it comes to balancing the need to provide public services with the need to minimize tax rates. This job should not be made more difficult through imprecise definitions that lead to questionable allocations of public monies or inappropriate decisions affecting local development, which in turn generate a greater burden on municipal and school service delivery.
Frederick W. (Rob) Robison is a former borough administrator in Roselle and Atlantic Highlands. He lives in Lakewood.
A scathing Report By the Department of State – Zoning Violations
We have attached hereto a document that we are hoping will get shared. It delineates violations by East Ramapo residents, in large part within the ultra-Orthodox community which have the potential to put school children at risk. It exemplifies a criticism of a pattern and practice of behavior within the community that feels itself immune from adhering to zoning codes. We ask that you read and share.
The corruption in Ramapo, New York is not unique to that town and not unique to the ultra-orthodox of Monsey, of New Square, of Kaisar, of Lakewood, of Jefferson Township… need we list more?
The children are most at risk. This really should be a “save the children” campaign foundational document. Must we wait until tragedy strikes?