East Ramapo Schools
Wed, 05/07/2014

Rabbi Avi Shafran’s complaint (“Social Injustice And The Ramapo School Board,” Opinion, May 2) about the state aid formula used for East Ramapo is unquestionably and maybe eternally valid, but it has little to do with the disaster that the East Ramapo School District has become, a fact that in itself is undoubtedly fostering anti-Semitism in the Hudson Valley and beyond.

When my late father was a member, and then president, of the Board of Education of the school district that is now known as East Ramapo in the 1960s, there was little question that the public school district, then among the largest in the state, was also among the best in the state. There were published projections that it would become much larger and that even more schools would be needed. Much of the population consisted of middle-class Jewish and Catholic families who could have, but did not choose to, send their children to parochial schools. 

I remember my father’s constant complaint at the time that the school district was being drastically shortchanged by inadequate state aid, and school taxes as a result were too high, but the population at the time was generally willing to pay the price. 

What changed? The only major change is what the rabbi calls an “odd demographic.” That is, only one-third of the students in the school district now attend public schools. Much of the middle class with children of school age has moved elsewhere. Public school supporters understood that someone who struggles to pay for a parochial education would not support public education the way it needs to be supported in order to have first-class schools.

While East Ramapo may never again become a viable public school district, the lessons have not been lost on others in Rockland and Orange counties. There is a palpable fear that the same thing could happen to the public schools in their communities as the numbers of families sending children to parochial schools increase. The resulting loss in public educational quality and property values is their major concern, even more than the inability to relate to or socialize with haredim and others.

Could anyone doubt that this fear of being displaced or economically injured gives rise to anti-Semitism?

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Failing Government Schools rarely fail due to lack of funding. They primarily fail because of inadequate oversight, bloated contracts, and underqualified teachers. Blame for all of the above belongs s

Douglas,

The only change in the district is that there are now more private school students? That is why there is a failing school system? That is the change from the 1960s?

Either you have no clue what the real change in the demographic is or you are being intentionally dishonest.

The difference is the change in the demographics of the public school children.

There is a reason why these anti- orthodox are easily able to falsely allege that the school board is racist and why the NAACP get called in.

The ER public schools have been underperforming long before the Orthodox became the majority of the ERCSD board. The ERCSD board being primarily is very recent, long after the schools were long known as poor performing schools.

That is why the Orthodox even got involved, there was runaway spending by the school board that no how translated into increased performance, in fact the schools performance were just sliding further into an abyss. There was no accountability. On top of that there was no one representing the non public school children who were quickly becoming the majority of the school aged children in the district.

Remember this is the East Ramapo Central School District, not the East Ramapo central PUBLIC School District. It represents all students in the district, of whom the majority are non-public school students.

And what, dear Douglas, do you propose be done? Parents whose religious convictions require them to send their children to parochial should be outlawed from purchasing homes in neighborhoods they are considered undesirables? Or rather should they be forced to violate their religious convictions and send their children to public school?

Actually, two things changed. Besides the demographic change, the amount of disposal income available to families has dropped precipitously in real dollar terms. Taxes, fees and the cost of living have risen dramatically in New York so much so that people are fleeing the state (note how the number of representatives in Congress continues to drop). It simply is not sustainable. Even in districts without Jewish representation, they are cutting sports, art, music, classes, selling buildings, etc. because none of the districts can afford the taxes and the state is not supplying sufficient aid.

As to the last comment, is the answer to raise taxes 10% to cover all of the wants and then anti-semitism will go away? It doesn't work that way. Anti-semites will be anti-semites no matter what you do - it is based in emotion. In East Ramapo, most of the EMS and voluteer firemen are Orthodox Jews. Does that get media attention and appreciation and break down the walls? No. Why not? Because there is no desire to break down the walls. Those individuals who have been here for 50 years don't want the Orthodox Jews here (see Airmont as an example). But, this is America, presumably the land of the free, where we DON'T restrict where people can live base on race, religion or creed.

The bottom line is that we need to receive the funding that we DESERVE based on our actual demographics of today, not the demographics of 1970. If that were to happen, all parties would be satisfied with the education programs (but the anti-semitism would not go away).

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