EAST RAMAPO TRUSTEE RESPONDS TO DEPRISCO’S OPINION ON VETO-WIELDING MONITOR

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To the Editor:

I appreciate Thomas Deprisco’s expressed concern for the well-being of the students in East Ramapo, and hope we can count on him to support our District’s ongoing efforts for increased state funding to help meet student needs. But there are portions of Mr. Deprisco’s analysis of our District’s finances that reflect a fundamental misunderstanding of the issues, which lead him to make accusations and reach conclusions that are unfounded.

First, Deprisco confuses reimbursement to the District of transportation and special education expenditures with money received by the District for foundation aid. Money received by the District for transportation and special education services reflects partial reimbursement by the State for money the District was required to spend for those state-mandated services in the prior year. With the addition of 1500-2000 private school children to the District each year, mandated services costs increase, and the partial reimbursement number increases. But that partial reimbursement is not state aid.

Foundation aid, on the other hand, which is state aid, has remained virtually unchanged year after year, despite the fact that 84% of East Ramapo’s public school children live in poverty and. receive free or reduced lunch, 29% of the students are English Language Learners, and 21% have learning issues. No school district can sustain services to a growing, high needs population like the one in East Ramapo, without increases in necessary state aid. And, as the statistics below make clear, Deprisco and his Pearl River board have virtually no experience in dealing with these kinds of issues.

Second, Deprisco comments on East Ramapo transportation activities, with particular focus on private school gender segregated busing – implying that it is wrong, unnecessary, and too costly to continue. What Deprisco ignores, however, is that most of the private schools for which transportation is provided are themselves gender segregated. And each such school fills the buses allocated for their students’ transportation needs. As such, any movement from gender segregated service for those private school students would be more costly, and would present a logistical nightmare. Add to that the verifiable fact that East Ramapo’s cost per pupil for transportation is the lowest in the county – a point lauded by the State monitors in their report and lost on

Deprisco. It is hard to understand what Deprisco’s problem is.

Finally, Deprisco offers his opinion on East Ramapo’s level of Foundation Aid. While Deprisco is entitled to his opinion, the mere expression of it doesn’t make it right. In fact, according to the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, East Ramapo is underfunded by approximately $20 million per year. A simple review of the data available at http://data.nysed.gov/lists.php?type=district and http://www.p12.nysed.gov/irs/statistics/nonpublic/home.html shows the huge disparity between East Ramapo and other Districts in the county, and makes clear why East Ramapo’s needs are so much greater than those of other districts.

 

 

District Economically Disadvantaged ELL Disability Enrollment Foundation Aid

 

Foundation Aid per Pupil Nonpublic Enrollment

 

East Ramapo 84% 29% 21% 8,497 $33,514,002 $3,944 25,054
Pearl River 11% 1% 11% 2,537 $5,111,599 $2,015 231
Haverstraw 53% 12% 11% 7,847 $36,905,589 $4,703 575
Nanuet 19% 4% 10% 2,207 $4,394,736 $1,991 90
Nyack 28% 6% 13% 2,958 $6,471,137 $2,188 238
Ramapo Central 22% 3% 13% 4,334 $9,611,249 $2,218 1,571
South Orangetown 13% 3% 10% 3,183 $6,557,983 $2,060 87
Clarkstown 11% 2% 15% 8,368 $20,255,636 $2,421 365

 

Deprisco ignores these statistics and these realities for East Ramapo. But unless he is prepared to address them and to make sense of present funding approaches, his unsupported accusations and conclusions are worth about as much as the week old paper on which they were written.

Foundation aid is the issue. That won’t change whether a monitor with or without veto power is installed. But if Deprisco and others are genuinely concerned about the welfare and well-being of the students in East Ramapo, they should join our effort to increase foundation aid funding for the benefit of all of the students in the District.

Harry Grossman

Harry Grossman is the Vice President of the East Ramapo Central School District Board of Education. The views expressed herein are those of Mr. Grossman, and not of the Board.

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