Failed Recipe for Lakewood Will Fail in East Ramapo

The veto-powered monitor over the school board in Lakewood, NJ, has made cuts to the public school as state underfunding is proven again to be the problem.
The veto-powered monitor made the cuts as he faced the same problem that the "school board majority of white Ultra Orthodox Jewish men" faced before him: Rising mandated programs expenses which by law are required to be paid before voluntary programs. But due to a faulty funding formula the state underfunds the district. Hence, the cuts to the public school which has discretionary programs.
Bigots placed the blame of past cuts in Lakewood onto "the majority Orthodox Jewish school board" with the notion that the board members do not care for minority students in the public school sector. The state, happily trying to avoid blame for letting a faulty formula stand, placed a veto-monitor over the school board. But this monitor, with the power to override the school board, did obviously not solve the problem. To the contrary. He now does exactly as the board did before he showed up. Namely, makes cuts to the public school.

Lawmakers in New York are taking the same path in ??East Ramapo?. They are trying to placate bigots who blame Orthodox Jews for funding-induced problems. Just days ago, Ed Day the County Executive of Rockland County, wrote a letter to a few State Senators in Albany. "In a school district where 90% of public school students are children of color, the majority Orthodox Jewish school board continues to put first the interests of private school students whose parents choose private schools. This is not my observation, but rather the assessment of state-appointed fiscal monitor Hank Greenberg."

Mr. Greenberg was a temporary monitor with no veto-power over East Ramapo. He indeed did point out that spending went down in public schools while it rose in private schools. But Mr. Greenberg; Mr. Day; Lohud/The Journal News (the largest newspaper in Rockland); the faux "education activists"; the Education Law Center filing frivolous lawsuits, and the bigots agitating against East Ramapo by misleading the public, ignore the fact that mandated programs (largely the only tax-funded programs in private schools) are by law required to be funded before discretionary programs (of which there are many in the public schools). They also ignore the fact that private school enrollment spiked 43% over the last ten years in East Ramapo, while public school enrollment dropped almost 5% in the same period.

The letter from Mr. Day also says that "as a result, East Ramapo is now a bitterly divided community whose many different groups can no longer co-exist due to the board’s failure to govern in a balanced manner. Anti-Semitism and racism are on the rise and the school board takes no responsibility for the dissonance."

Mr. Day's framing the debate that an 'Orthodox board' neglects children of color; hiding glaring facts such as enrollment changes and state underfunding, and blaming the victims of anti-Semitism for the rise of anti-Semitism, illustrates the hateful agenda behind much of the agitation in East Ramapo and Lakewood. Many of the lead "activists", journalists and lawmakers on the East Ramapo story repeatedly frame the debate the same way as Mr. Day does.

In response to the letter, Evan Bernstein, director of the ADL office in New York, wrote "the debate of the plight of the district’s public schools is legitimate and we are sympathetic to the district’s parents and students who have seen a depletion of school resources and services over the last several years.

"We are also acutely aware, and increasingly concerned, by the community tensions surrounding this public debate. Americans are entitled to have strong opinions, but there is also language that is inappropriate and offensive in any such discussion. Indeed, Ed Day raises the issue of anti-Semitism and racism that has emanated from this debate, but he lays the blame for it at the “majority Orthodox Jewish school board.”

"Elected officials not only must address problems in the public schools, they also should be working to ease community tensions. In this regard, Mr. Day failed. We hope that Mr. Day will weigh his words more carefully and understand that rhetoric like this, whether in the press or in other public outlets, can only create greater distances between communities rather than build the bridges that are sorely needed."

We agree. Debating the challenges in East Ramapo and Lakewood is absolutely legitimate. But ignoring glaring facts that caused many of the challenge is unproductive, and blaming the Orthodox Jewish community as a collective is outright bigoted. Many of the people who do the first (hide facts) also do the latter (blame the Orthodox). Disturbingly, too many of these people are in positions of journalistic, political and government power.

The mission of the Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council (OJPAC) is to counter the defamation of the Orthodox Jewish Community, and to champion civil rights and civil liberties. Please consider supporting our efforts by following us on Twitter/Facebook (@OJPAC); by sharing our content and by donating funds via our Donate Page. Your support is appreciated!

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