State-appointed monitors assigned to the troubled East Ramapo School District in Rockland County, New York, issued a report today calling for $3 million in state aid to the district — and for continued on-the-ground monitoring next year.
“The State has a duty not to turn its back on the children of East Ramapo and must continue to ensure all students receive the education they deserve,” Board of Regents chancellor Betty A. Rosa said in a statement.
The district has faced years of controversy over allegations that the elected school board favors the interests of the Orthodox Jewish yeshivas located in the district over those of the public schools.
In 2014, a state-appointed fiscal monitor reported to the state’s Board of Regents that the board, in some instances, had chosen to serve the private yeshivas over the public schools.
The New York State Education Department appointed a monitor, former New York City Board of Education chairman Dennis Walcott, to work with the East Ramapo district in August 2015. The current monitors, Charles Szuberla and John Sipple, assumed their posts a year later.
In their report, released online today, the monitors claim that progress has been made at East Ramapo. They report improvements in financial controls, and say that the district will remain out of debt this year.
“We are seeing real change in the District to address these concerns,” Szuberla said in a statement. “It is vital that these changes are allowed to continue in the next school year without imperiling the District’s fiscal integrity.”
The monitors say that $3 million in state funding is required to keep the district on financial track, and that monitors should remain in place in the next school year.
The report draws a drastic picture of a fast-changing school district. According to the monitors, 84% of public school students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, up from 59% a decade ago, and the special education student population is up from 11% of students in 2003 to 19% in 2016.
The nonpublic school population in the district, meanwhile, is growing at 5% per year. The district also now has the second-largest student busing system in New York State.
Josh Nathan-Kazis is a staff writer for the Forward. He covers charities and politics, and writes investigations and longform.