By Rockland County Executive Ed Day
I sent a letter today to New York State Senator John Flanagan. In it, I expressed my extreme disappointment with his recent comments regarding the East Ramapo Central School District. Both Senator Flanagan and his colleague, Senator Carl Marcellino, have publicly opposed a monitor with veto power for the deeply troubled school system.
In a school district where 90% of public school students are children of color, the majority Orthodox Jewish school board continues to put first the interests of private school students whose parents choose private schools. This is not my observation, but rather the assessment of state-appointed fiscal monitor Hank Greenberg.
As a result, East Ramapo is now a bitterly divided community whose many different groups can no longer co-exist due to the board’s failure to govern in a balanced manner. Anti-Semitism and racism are on the rise and the school board takes no responsibility for the dissonance.
Senator Marcellino recently stated, “My inclination is to hopefully allow the [East Ramapo] district to resolve the issues on their own, without the state getting involved.” A comment like this from the head of the Senate Education Committee is an outrage. I wonder how such an opinion could be formed by an elected official who has never stepped foot in an East Ramapo school building.
My letter included an invitation to Senators Flanagan and Marcellino to join me for a tour of the district this spring. I believe a first-hand look at the crumbling buildings, gutted programs and overworked faculty will change their perspective. Hearing from the many affected East Ramapo parents will also be key to the visit.
I’ve also contacted Senator David Carlucci. While I appreciate his consistent support of a monitor with veto power for East Ramapo, I am outraged that legislation to secure this position remains stalled in the Education Committee.
As a member of the powerful Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), I fully expect Senator Carlucci’s influence to move this bipartisan measure out of committee and ensure passage by the full Senate. Anything less than the relentless pursuit of this life-changing legislation would increase the pain for East Ramapo children. As one of the bill’s co-sponsors, along with Republican Senator Bill Larkin, Senator Carlucci must not accept failure.
State legislators of both parties must stand up and realize that this is a civil rights issue with sweeping implications. Our state representatives must not allow this untenable situation to continue under their watch. The Senate and New York must not fail the children and families of the struggling East Ramapo Central School District. We need them to work with their colleagues to make sure that every student in New York State is treated equally, fairly and respectfully.
In many ways, Senator Carlucci holds the key to success with this bill, given the clout of the IDC. Every expectation is that his leadership on this critical matter will win the day. After all, it’s not about politics. It’s about the families of East Ramapo.