The NYC Bar Association decided to support NYS Assembly Bill 0A5355A aimed at the East Ramapo Central School District; a district 40 miles north of NYC. Below is an open letter in response:
1) Your memo claims that the Board violated NY law by denying public school students a sound education. Well, the Board cannot provide all programs for the public school because the state underfunds the district thanks to a faulty formula that does not account for a district where 75% students are in private schools. The Board therefore pays mandated programs for private schools (such as busing at a very low-per-student rate) by limiting some voluntary programs to public schools. Formula Change, in addition to Albany fully restoring deep cuts in education that they enacted, will fix this; not a monitor.
2) Your memo says East Ramapo needs oversight. Agreed, all government bodies need oversight, but the bill provides dictatorship; a person appointed - by people not stakeholders in East Ramapo - who will have the power to override the will of the voters and the rule of an elected board. Suspending civil liberties is not an option even if - as your paper points out - it comes with a sunset provision. Additionally, East Ramapo already has oversight as the other 700 school districts across New York have.
3) Your memo argues that the bill affects only a narrow area (one school district). This should be the very reason to oppose, not support, the bill. It is unprecedented and un-American to use legislation to treat one small area/community different than the rest of the state.
Finally, as an entity based in and focused on New York City, your staff should be aware that East Ramapo does not have one failing school in it while NYC has dozens of those. East Ramapo with less per-student state funding than other districts in the same poverty group, does better academically than many schools in its tier. The Bar will be better served if it helps the students in failing schools of NYC who have unconstitutionally been denied a sound education, instead of making the situation worse for students forty miles north of the city by supporting an un-American bill that ignores the core problem: Funding.
- End of Letter -
Dear reader: You can share your opinion on bill A5355A with:
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie
Assembly Education Chair Cathy Nolan
You can also contact other members of the Education Committee in the Assembly
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