Gov. Cuomo Signs East Ramapo Oversight Bill
John Jordan | July 2016
ALBANY—Gov. Andrew Cuomo, as expected, signed into law on June 30th a bill that will provide greater oversight of the troubled East Ramapo School District in Rockland County.
The bill was passed by the Assembly and Senate on June 16 and was delivered to the governor on June 28th. Oversight legislation was passed last year by the State Legislature, but was vetoed by Gov. Cuomo. The district is home to roughly 30,000 students, with about two-thirds of them attending private yeshivas or other non-public schools, according to the Journal News.
The legislation will bring $3 million to the district to restore student programs. In addition to the funding, the agreement will continue the appointment of the monitors to the district as well as oversight over the new appropriations and budget review by the Commissioner of Education MaryEllen Elia. The legislation will be in effect for one year.
The proposal, sponsored by State Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee and State Senator David Carlucci, will require that the new funding be used to restore programs that have been cut, including extracurricular activities, support services and full-day kindergarten. The district, in consultation with the monitors, must develop a comprehensive expenditure plan that will detail how the new funding will be allocated. The public will have an opportunity to weigh in on the plan and the funding may only be provided to the district upon satisfaction of the Commissioner that the funds were spent appropriately.
The plan includes oversight that will be provided by the Commissioner of Education. Under the bill, the board must submit next year’s school budget for review to the Commissioner, who will have binding authority. They must also submit any sale of a public asset, capital contract or cut in public education programs for State Commissioner approval.
The bill had widespread support from the Rockland state delegation as well as from local civic and political organizations.
On June 14th, State Assemblymen Kenneth Zebrowski, Jaffee and State Senator Carlucci announced they had introduced the oversight bill legislation in the Assembly and Senate. The bill was the result of negotiations between the lawmakers, legislative leaders as well as the governor’s office.
When the bill was introduced, bill sponsors as well as school officials were hopeful of its passage.
“I have been proud to fight for East Ramapo, and this new legislation will allow us to turn a corner and take the first step in restoring vital programming for our children. With the deal reached today, alongside my colleagues, the dedicated students and advocates throughout the community, our school district will have the oversight and funding it needs for success,” said State Senator David Carlucci.
“We were able to come to an agreement late last night, and as sponsor of this legislation I believe that this is one step of many that will help restore academic excellence for the public school students and foster a positive environment in the East Ramapo School District. This legislation will enhance collaboration between the State Education Department, the school board and community as well as provide additional funds for essential educational programs,” said Assemblywoman Jaffee.
“After almost two years of contentious debate, this bill represents hope for the East Ramapo School District. Hope for meaningful oversight, restored opportunities and a future where both sides can come together for the best interests of the kids,” said Assemblyman Zebrowski.
“These additional resources will allow us to expand full-day kindergarten, music and the arts and other enhancements that will improve educational outcomes in East Ramapo. This is a source of great encouragement for our students, teachers and administrators. It really builds hope for a turnaround in the district,” said Dr. Deborah Wortham, superintendent of the East Ramapo School District.
Photo Caption: Gov. Andrew Cuomo/File Photo