Legislative Advocacy Update

Two letter writing campaigns have addressed the legislation currently being written in response to the fiscal monitors recommendations.

StrongEastRamapo urges lawmakers to write a law that includes “strong state intervention for East Ramapo”. Many people wrote, asking the state to empower a monitor with the authority to: direct the superintendent proactively to take actions necessary to ensure an excellent education for the children of East Ramapo, not just reactively veto the poor decisions of the board; and to be able to dismiss the superintendent if he fails standard performance reviews, and to hire a new one. If you have not participated yet, please do so now!

Power of Ten also has a letter addressing the financial crisis which the fiscal monitor described. The monitor recommended more state funding, but did not make any statement about what the source or mechanism should be. Our analysis led to our recommendation to amend the Contract for Excellence law which provided extra funding to high-need districts. The money would only be available for approved uses, such as providing full day kindergarten or reducing class sizes. East Ramapo is not currently eligible, that is why we are asking the lawmakers to amend the law to allow East Ramapo to be added.

Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski has replied to those who participated in the Power of Ten letter writing campaign.

He wrote:

Thank you for writing my office regarding funding for the East Ramapo School District and the Contracts for Excellence Program.

The Contracts for Excellence were accountability measures that were placed upon school districts that received increased funding in 2007. These accountability measures provided oversight over the allocation of increased funds. To my knowledge, this program remains in place for most districts that received funding in 2007 but is not a recurring program that school districts are added to.

Please be assured that one of my top priorities for the upcoming legislative session is passing a bill with appropriate oversight over the East Ramapo School District. I am currently in the process of working with my Rockland colleagues to develop a bill that can be introduced within the next couple weeks. In conjunction with this oversight we will be working to significantly increase State Aid to the district in order to protect and restore programs for the students. The mechanism for that increase is being discussed and researched amongst the Rockland delegation and will likely be debated over the next several months. The final product will hopefully be secured in the next State Budget which must be passed on April 1st.

Thank you again for your email and suggestion regarding the Contracts for Excellence program. I will continue to research this program, and others, as we address the need for State oversight and increased funding.


Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski

A Power of Ten reader wrote back to the Assemblyman:

Dear Assemblyman Zebrowski,

Thank you for your reply. I understand that C4E as it is currently exists does not allow for the addition of new districts. That is why I’m asking that you seek to amend it to include East Ramapo.

C4E targets many of the programs, such as smaller class sizes, all-day kindergarten, students performing below standards, English language learners, and students with disabilities, that are currently at issue in East Ramapo. Furthermore, C4E includes a mature, well-defined, and most importantly, effective method for monitoring performance and ensuring accountability from the district that the funds are being used appropriately and achieving their intended purpose.

Changing the school funding formula is controversial, and getting such a change passed may be difficult, since any change would have impacts and consequences far beyond the borders of East Ramapo. Likewise, any attempt to pass a “custom” solution for East Ramapo will face an uphill battle. On the other hand, C4E already exists, already has a source of funding, and already has a proven track record. It may be easier to obtain the votes needed to add East Ramapo to this program than it would be to obtain the votes needed for the other options.

David A. Curry