New York Governor: Ultra-Orthodox-controlled School District Needs Oversight

East Ramapo school board accused of favoring local yeshivas at the expense of public schools.

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Rockland County school board’s Orthodox Vice President Aron Wieder. Credit: Courtesy of The Forward and Aron Wieder.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is pressuring the state's education department to ensure oversight of a troubled school district run by a majority ultra-Orthodox school board.

The East Ramapo Central School district, in southwest Rockland County, New York, serves a community that is more than half Haredi. Many of them do not enroll their children in public schools.

Since 2005, when the elected school board became majority ultra-Orthodox, the district, which has made significant budget cuts, has been accused of not allocating adequate funds to the public schools.

Community activists have also alleged that it improperly diverted taxpayer funds to benefit yeshivas in the area and used public dollars for special-education services at private schools, even when comparable services were available in public institutions.

The district 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 a local yeshiva.

Cuomo is recommending that Hank Greenberg, an attorney who formerly investigated fraudulent student assessments, be appointed to serve as a monitor for the district. The state education department acceded to that proposal on Tuesday, according to CBS.

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.