NEW YORK (JTA) — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is pressuring the state Department of Education to ensure oversight of a troubled school district run by a majority haredi Orthodox school board.
The East Ramapo Central School district encompasses a suburban area where haredi Orthodox Jews, who do not enroll their children in public schools, make up more than half the population. Since 2005, when the elected school board became majority Orthodox, the district, which has made significant budget cuts, has been accused of not allocating adequate funds to the public schools. Community activists also have alleged that it improperly diverted taxpayer funds to benefit area yeshivas and used public dollars for special-education services at private schools, even when comparable services were available in public institutions.
The district also has run afoul of the state education department and local activists, when it tried to sell, and later leased, public school property at below-market rates to an area yeshiva.
Cuomo is recommending Hank Greenberg, an attorney who formerly investigated fraudulent student assessments, to serve as a monitor for the district, according to the Journal News, a local newspaper.
Earlier this year, a group of religious leaders – including the Orthodox Jewish social justice group Uri L’Tzedek – formed the interfaith Rockland Clergy for Social Justice organization to call for state fiscal and administrative oversight of the school board.
Though Cuomo does not have jurisdiction over the school board, the New York State Department of Education is expected to respond to his statements.
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