Tale of Two Districts: State considers intervention in school dispute

A heated debate is underway in Albany on a controversial bill to radically change the way the East Ramapo School District is run. State officials

State officials are weighing whether to intervene in a dispute between public school parents in East Ramapo and the public school board run by Orthodox Hasidic Jews.

State officials are weighing whether to intervene in a dispute between public school parents in East Ramapo and the public school board run by Orthodox Hasidic Jews. (5/6/15)

EAST RAMAPO - A heated debate is underway in Albany on a controversial bill to radically change the way the East Ramapo School District is run.

State officials are weighing whether to intervene in a dispute between public school parents in East Ramapo and the public school board run by Orthodox Hasidic Jews.

The state is considering a proposal to appoint a board member with veto power over the democratically elected board.

The fight pits the Jewish community against their mostly black and Haitian neighbors.

The crisis has been building up for a decade, ever since the quickly expanding Hasidic and ultra-Orthodox Jewish community elected six of their own to the nine-member East Ramapo School Board. The six people have children who are in private school.

With state aid shrinking and full-day kindergarten and summer school slashed along with 400 workers, seeds of resentment were planted between the struggling minority community and the board.

Under state law, the school district must provide buses, books and special education to all of the 24,000 private school kids who are mostly in yeshivas, while only receiving state aid to cover the education of 9,000 students in public schools.

A state-appointed monitor recently found that the board favored private school interests over public schools and suggested that the state appoint a 10th school board member with veto power.  State lawmakers are all on board with the idea.

The county executive scheduled an emergency, interfaith summit later this month. Some advocates say that it is not enough and are calling for the state's human rights commissioner to investigate.

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