Rockland County, NY – As a follow up to his interview last week with the author of a controversial article that appeared in New York Magazine describing the conflict that exists between the public and private school communities in Rockland County, WNYC (http://wny.cc/13LZgzc) talk radio host Brian Lehrer spoke with a well known member of Rockland County’s chasidic community about the tensions that exist within the East Ramapo School District.
Much criticism was leveled at the Orthodox and Chasidic communities by Benjamin Wallace-Wells, in his article titled “Them and Them”, which was published on April 21st. Wallace-Wells continued his diatribe against the members of the East Ramapo school board, all of whom are Jewish and send their children to private schools, in a twenty minute interview which aired last week on the Brian Lehrer Show.
Lehrer gave Aron Wieder, chasidic Rockland County legislator and former school board president, an opportunity to respond to the allegations hurled by Wallace-Wells, whose lengthy article charged that Jewish board members were elected with the sole intention of “starving” and “de-funding” the local school district in an interview which was posted today on WNYC’s website.
With an estimated 9,000 public school students and over 20,000 private school students, East Ramapo is unique in the country and tensions have continued to escalate within the district as newly elected Jewish school board members have cut programs and curbed tax increases in an effort to curtail what they consider to be out of control spending. Private school parents have deemed the cuts to be unfair and have accused the school board of hijacking the public school system for their own purposes.
While the East Ramapo school board currently consists of all Orthodox and Chasidic members, Wieder was quick to point out that there will be no private school parents running for any of the three vacant seats that will be filled by the upcoming school board election on May 21st.
Wieder stressed the need for finding common ground between the two very diverse groups that comprise the East Ramapo school district, quoting the words of Martin Luther King Jr., “We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.”
Dismissing the notion that it is unfair for a school board to be comprised of parents who send their children to private schools, Wieder pointed the finger of blame squarely at Albany, explaining that the way the state allocates funding is responsible for East Ramapo’s huge deficit. Wieder further charged that if Albany were to correctly adjust its numbers to accurately reflect the number of private school students, which he estimated to be over 25,000, the district would receive an additional $15 to $20 million which would cover the shortfall and eliminate the need for any cuts in programs or staffing.
“The injustice done to E Ramapo school district by the dysfunction of Albany needs to end,” said Wieder.
Wieder also praised State Senator David Carlucci for his efforts on behalf of East Ramapo’s children in both working on a state formula change which would change the way funds were allocated as well as attempting to have the full day kindergarten program reinstated.
Listen to the full interview here.