Assemblyman Mike Lawler (R,C,I,SAM-Pearl River) has introduced a new bill to the state legislature in an effort to solve some long-standing issues in the East Ramapo Central School District.
“For years, the East Ramapo Central School District has been a source of controversy, anger and division in our community. It’s been a long, difficult journey to this point and my fear is, if we stay on the current trajectory, nothing will change. That’s why I’m announcing new legislation that will fundamentally change the equation and address the unique problem facing the East Ramapo Central School District: how we fund mandated services for private school students.”
Lawler’s proposal, the Educational Equity and Choice Act (EECA),would place the responsibility for funding mandated services, busing for example, entirely with the State Department of Education. Lawler argues that leaving that burden to East Ramapo’s public school board has caused hostilely in the community and severely stretched ERCSD’s resources.
“As we’ve seen in the East Ramapo Central School District, this issue is a flash point and can cause significant, unnecessary division between different communities. The EECA would remedy that almost entirely, allowing for private schools to work directly with the New York State Education Department on issues of funding for mandated services. It would also mean that the sole focus of the public school board would be to ensure that the public school students receive the fully funded, quality education they deserve. This bill, in conjunction with other measures, will help all the students in the East Ramapo Central School District by ensuring a steady, consistent stream of funding for both public and private schools.”
The East Ramapo School District has of course had its share of controversy recently. Last year the school board lost a lawsuit filed by the NAACP which claimed that the board had failed to represent the interests of the entire community; a ward system was established to ensure that those elected to make decisions for the district resided in the communities impacted by those decisions. Some legislators have proposed going a step further and establishing a monitor on the school board who would have the authority to veto proposals deemed against the interest of the broader community.
Lawler has criticized that approach, calling the idea “a short term solution.” Lawler instead asserts that, in cases such as East Ramapo, where a majority of students attend private school, direct state funding of mandated resources will protect public school budgets and ease tensions between public and private school interests.
Assemblyman Lawler has introduced two versions of the bill, one that would apply statewide, and one that would only apply to districts where 65% or more of the students residing in the district are enrolled in private schools.