“While the district has touted staffing and programming additions in recent years, the district had 332 fewer staff positions in the 2018-2019 school year compared to 2008-2009, when cuts kicked in.
From The Journal News
East Ramapo interim Superintendent Raymond Giamartino Jr. on Monday confirmed that the district planned to lay off teachers and combine classrooms, an unusual mid-year move that adds even more disruption to a year that’s seen buildings repeatedly shut by COVID-19 cases.
Giamartino pinned the blame for cuts on the current contingency budget, which limits how the district can spend, and the millions of dollars invested in a legal defense on behalf of the district during a federal civil rights court challenge brought by the Spring Valley NAACP – a case the district ultimately lost.
During testimony in the federal court case, it was revealed that the district had rejected attempts to settle the case, including one prior to the start of the trial that NAACP lawyers said would have spared the district legal fees.
On Monday, Giamartino pointed to “the recent court decision that will cost over $4 (million),” referencing some $4.3 million the district will have to pay toward legal costs incurred by the NAACP as it challenged the district’s school board voting system that was determined to disenfranchise minority communities in the district.
“This is a sad and challenging time for East Ramapo and one that the interim superintendent, Board and district take very seriously,” Giamartino said in a statement.
The planned cuts include a classroom staffing reduction of up to 32 full-time equivalent positions, said Giamartino,
That will mean combining classes. Giamartino said some of these class sections have had “a maximum of 8-11 students for a number of years – an unaffordable model.”
While the cuts are being framed as fallout for the current contingency budget, COVID-19 strains and the legal costs incurred by the federal civil rights challenge, the district’s fiscal condition has long been on shaky ground.
Troubled, divided district
For more than a decade, the school board has been dominated by white men who advocates say have represented the concerns of the Orthodox and Hasidic community that send their kids to a private yeshiva system at the cost of public education.
About 9,000 children attend the district’s public schools, and many are from working-class, immigrant families. The district provides busing and other mandated services to nearly 30,000 students in private schools, mostly yeshivas.
The struggle over resources has long fed tension in the district.
In announcing the cuts Monday, Giamartino cited the current contingency budget of nearly $246 million. At the polls in June – the vote was delayed amid the COVID-19 crisis –voters rejected a $247 million spending plan by 2:1 at the polls. East Ramapo was the only district in the region to suffer a budget defeat this year.
School elections were upended last year, but East Ramapo voters’ rejection of the district’s budget was hardly unusual.
East Ramapo has seen more budgets plans rejected at the polls than any other in New York.
The fiscal and community strains led the state Legislature in June 2016 to call for a monitor in East Ramapo. The monitor post –which came with no veto power –came with $3 million infusion of state aid as a sweetener for the district.
Monitors this fall, in their their 2018-2019 review, warned that the district’s frequent contingency spending plans put East Ramapo in the position of never being able to catch up financially. That is, monitors said, unless residents are willing to override the tax cap and pass heftier budgets.
While the district has touted staffing and programming additions in recent years, the district had 332 fewer staff positions in the 2018-2019 school year compared to 2008-2009, when massive cuts hit the district.
Meanwhile, public school enrollment increased from 7,752 students in 2009 to 9,855 in 2018.”
Read the full story at The Journal News online, click here.