Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday afternoon signed a historic compromise bill on the East Ramapo school district into law, ending an inter-neighborhood strife that had descended into bitter battles in recent years.
The law, which was agreed upon by Cuomo, the Democratic-led Assembly and the Republican Senate last month, takes effect in September. It denies the veto-empowered overseer some legislators had sought. Instead, it earmarks an additional $3 million for next year solely for the district’s dwindling public school population. It also mandates that the entire approximately $225 million annual school budget be submitted to state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia for recommendations.
The board that serves the district, which comprises the Torah centers of Monsey, Spring Valley and New Square, has come under increased scrutiny the past three years. They have been forced to use their limited school funds to cover required services the burgeoning network of private schools, such as busing, special education and textbooks. This sometimes came at the expense of non-required programs for public schools.
Elia was seen as an acceptable alternative to the appointment of a monitor with veto power, as local state lawmakers and anti-Orthodox Rockland County groups preferred.
Yehuda Weissmandl, president of the school board, sounded excited when contacted Thursday by Hamodia.
“It’s a new day for East Ramapo,” said Weissmandl, who leads the nine-member board. “We’re very excited that we will have the resources necessary to continue providing services for all our children.”
Although the deal is for next year only, Weissmandl said that the intention of lawmakers was to add to it in coming years, eventually reaching $5 million to $6 million a year.
The deal reached in June bolstered the view of local community activists that by putting politicians on notice at the ballot box, real change can be effected. A voter drive launched this week by local activists aims to register an additional 4,200 voters.
One activist involved said there are approximately 15,000 voters currently registered.
“This is a prime example of what we can accomplish in the public arena when voters are allowed to participate in the democratic process,” the activist said Thursday.