Saturday, June 01, 2013

Merge Rockland's school districts 

The Journal News and other media have written extensively about the crisis facing the East Ramapo School District. They have highlighted the control by the Hasidic community over the fate of this public school district by its voting strength — the “bloc vote” — in gaining dominance on the school board and voting down school budgets, including the 2013-14 budget proposal that failed at the polls May 21. If the budget does not pass on the second try June 18, the district will have to operate with a budget with the current tax levy.

This will cause a dramatic reduction in teaching positions, plus the elimination of a class period in the school day, Advanced Placement courses, all elementary art and music classes, special education, all sports and other school activities. This would be in addition to the severe cuts that have already taken place.

Given the situation, one could assume that district schools have deteriorated to such an extent that students are not receiving an adequate education preparing them to compete successfully as adults. In other words, the East Ramapo students are being prepared for failure.

There are about 9,000 students in the East Ramapo School District compared to about 20,000 enrolled in private schools, mostly in yeshivas that serve the ultra-Orthodox and Hasidic community. The rationale from people in this community is that their tax dollars are paying for children in public schools even though their children do not attend these schools. Then they also have to pay for the private schools their children attend. In effect, it gives them the right to seek control over the public school board and reduce the public school costs thus reducing their tax burden.

The fallacy in their argument is that in our country, it is the obligation of all citizens to pay taxes to support a free public education to all its children. Parents have the right not to avail themselves of this free education and to send their children to private school. However, it does not relieve them of their obligation to support an adequate public school education through their taxes.


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