New York State Legislature Votes to Expand Monitor Power in the East Ramapo School District

Affiliate: ACLU of New York
June 10, 2021 11:45 am

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ALBANY, N.Y. – The Senate and Assembly passed legislation to expand the authority of the East Ramapo school district state monitor, a necessary step toward rebuilding a district that will meet all students’ needs.

“The East Ramapo school district is a nationally-acknowledged affront to fairness and equity in education. The white majority that has controlled the school district for over a decade has brought Jim Crow into 21st century into New York – barely two hours from Albany. Black and Latinx public school students deserve a monitor who has more than a front row seat to over a decade of discrimination, mismanagement, and dismantling of a once premier school district. It is time for a state monitor that can take action and intervene for the sake of public school students’ education and futures,” said Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the NYCLU. “State officials can no longer look away. East Ramapo needs a state monitor with teeth, one that will have the power to obtain School Board proposed resolutions in advance, establish a conflict of interest policy, and take action to protect the rights of public students who are almost entirely Black and Latinx from a white majority that has demonstrated time and time again that they have no interest in their education. Governor Cuomo must sign this legislation and ensure students of color aren’t cheated out of the quality education to which they are entitled.”

“A monitor with power is an essential step to restore power to East Ramapo’s public school students and families. On behalf of the members of the Spring Valley NAACP, I wish to express appreciation to East Ramapo alumni, the New York Civil Liberties Union, Rockland Clergy for Social Justice, NAACP NY State Conference President Dr. Hazel N. Dukes, and above all, Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski and Senator Elijah Reichlin Melnick for their unwavering support of East Ramapo’s public school children,” said Willie Trotman, President of the Spring Valley Chapter of the NAACP.

For over a decade, the East Ramapo Central school district (ERCSD) has faced a crisis of leadership that has resulted in the steep decline of its public schools. Today, the district can be described as a 21st century Jim Crow school system, where the education of white students attending private religious schools is prioritized at the expense of the public school system that almost entirely serves students of color. While state actors have attempted many interventions and reforms in the district, they have so far failed to restore quality education to the district’s public schools.

Currently, there are two state monitors in ERCSD who make reports and recommendations to the State Education Commissioner, but they do not have power to override or even merely pause decisions made by school board members. This leaves the monitors without meaningful recourse as students’ futures are threatened. A.5683/S.6052 is an essential step towards transparency, accountability and restoring ERSCD to the educational performance levels it once had.

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