Agudah Pens Letter on Ramapo as Assembly Vote Set for Thursday

NEW YORK -

A bill that would impose a veto-empowered monitor on an Orthodox-led school board has generated “considerable ill will and anti-Semitism” in Rockland County, declared the executive vice president of Agudath Israel in a letter Wednesday to Albany’s three leaders.

Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel’s missive came the same day a second Assembly committee approved the bill to appoint for five years a fiscal monitor over the East Ramapo school board, whose heavily Orthodox makeup reflects the districts it represents — Monsey, Spring Valley and New Square.

The bill now heads to the full Assembly for a Thursday vote. It will then be sent to the Senate, where passage is far from likely.

A monitor with veto power, which comes at the urging of a state education-appointed observer, would be “unprecedented,” Rabbi Zwiebel wrote to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.

“As even the board’s critics have pointed out, the unique demographics of the East Ramapo School District, where approximately 70 percent of the district’s school children attend nonpublic schools,” he wrote, “has caused it to be woefully underfunded under the current state funding formula.”

Agudah’s leader said that the “drastic and unprecedented step” of appointing a fiscal monitor should be a matter of final resort. The situation has not reached that level yet, he said.

“The appropriate first step would be to revisit the funding formula as it applies to East Ramapo,” he wrote. “…That alone would make it more likely that the school board will be able to discharge its legal obligations to all the children in the district.”

Rabbi Zwiebel urged the triumvirate to reject the bill, noting that it has caused the district to degenerate into accusations of anti-Semitism and hostility.

“It is a dangerous canard to contend, as some of the bill’s proponents do, that Orthodox and Hasidic Jews who do not send their children to East Ramapo’s public schools … cannot be trusted to responsibly discharge their obligations as school board members,” Rabbi Zwiebel charged.

“Taking the unprecedented step of imposing a monitor on the board,” he added, “feeds directly into this libel, and only intensifies the climate of tension and ill-will currently permeating the district.”