The crisis in East Ramapo has gone on way too long. During the past six years, my opponent has clearly failed to provide long-term relief for the East Ramapo School District. Every year that passes worsens the educational opportunities for over 8,500 public school students, the vast majority being minorities. Over the past few weeks, my opponent has questioned my statements that there can be no compromising about East Ramapo. This is one crisis, one issue, one moment where compromise cannot be considered or tolerated. I refuse to allow these disgraceful conditions to continue for our children.
Although $3 million has helped to restore full-day kindergarten this year, there are no guarantees that the funding will be available next year and other years after that. Being a veteran school board member, I can unequivocally state that a school district cannot properly plan permanent and long-term academic programs without the knowledge of a sustainable funding source. This band-aid approach is unacceptable. Last year my opponent proposed legislation requiring a monitor with veto power which failed. He later proposed $5 million per year for a three-year period which also failed. Why did he reduce the amount this year? Keep in mind that my opponent and his Independent Democratic Conference couldn’t even convince the full Senate to pass this legislation last year. The much touted Independent Democratic Conference has used their influence to pass other legislation that they deemed important. Why couldn’t they do this for East Ramapo?
I am the only candidate discussing and proposing a long-term resolution.
After conducting extensive research, I have concluded that the funding formula for East Ramapo is flawed and that the school district has been underfunded compared to districts throughout the state with similar poverty and income demographics. For example; Mount Vernon, while having half the poverty rate, 34% higher per capita income, and 20% fewer students receiving free lunch, receives $16.3 million more per year in education aid than East Ramapo. What has our current state senator done within the past six years?
The following are my recommendations for East Ramapo:
1. Present my funding formula research to the NYS Education Commissioner and colleagues in the State Legislature and open a serious dialogue concerning the appropriate funding for East Ramapo for the 2017-18 school year and beyond.
2. Ensure strict oversight of budgetary allotment and spending decisions made by the East Ramapo Board of Education.
3. Direct the NYS Education Commissioner to thoroughly review the existing transportation expenditures and state aid related to the busing of private school students. Public tax dollars should not be utilized to support and pay for segregated religious busing. It is my belief that the school district may continue this practice, but the private schools will need to pay for this religious accommodation.
4. Ensure the NYS Education Commissioner continues reviewing the special education placement practices. The school district was placed under review several years ago.
5. Review all other education aid provided to the school district. I have reviewed the major aid appropriations provided to East Ramapo (textbook, library, computer hardware, computer software).These aids are based upon the total number of public and private school students residing within the district. According to enrollment figures, East Ramapo receives the proper amount of state aid. However, the NYS Education Commissioner needs to review and ensure that the public school students are first receiving their rightful share of educational materials such as up-to-date textbooks and technological equipment.
Tom DePrisco is a resident of Pearl River. He serves as the Vice President of the Pearl River School District School Board and the Rockland County School Boards Association. For more information visit www.TomDePrisco.com.