N.Y. State appoints monitor for majority Orthodox school district

NEW YORK (JTA) — The New York State Education Department is appointing a fiscal monitor to oversee a troubled school district run by a majority haredi Orthodox Jewish school board.

Responding to a recommendation by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the department designated Albany attorney Hank Greenberg, a former counsel to the New York State attorney general, to provide oversight of the East Ramapo Central School District, according to The Journal News.

“The department has been working closely with East Ramapo to try to address the district’s serious fiscal issues, and the appointment of a fiscal monitor is the next step in those efforts,” State Education Commissioner John King said in a statement, the newspaper reported.

The Rockland County district encompasses a suburban area where haredi Orthodox Jews, who do not enroll their children in public schools, make up more than half the population.

Since 2005, when the elected school board became majority Orthodox, the district, which has made significant budget cuts, has been accused of not allocating adequate funds to the public schools. Community activists also have alleged that the board improperly diverted taxpayer funds to benefit area yeshivas and used public dollars for special-education services at private schools, even when comparable services were available in public institutions.

The district also ran afoul of the state Education Department and local activists when it tried to sell, and later leased, public school property at below-market rates to an area yeshiva.

East Ramapo Central’s superintendent, Joel Klein, said the monitor would enable the district to show that “everything is perfect here,” the Journal News reported.

“I welcome it because we have nothing to hide,” he told the newspaper.

Earlier this year, a group of religious leaders – including the Orthodox Jewish social justice group Uri L’Tzedek – formed the interfaith Rockland Clergy for Social Justice organization to call for state fiscal and administrative oversight of the school board.

 

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