New York State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan told the haredi umbrella group Agudath Israel of America last night that the state Board of Regents move to have a state fiscal and policy monitor with veto power installed in the scandal-plagued haredi controlled East Ramapo Central School District has anti-Semitic overtones and his Republican caucus would not allow it to happen.
NY State Senate Leader Vows To Block State-Appointed Monitor For Scandal-Plagued Haredi-Controlled School District
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
New York State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan told the haredi umbrella group Agudath Israel of America last night that the state Board of Regents move to have a state fiscal and policy monitor with veto power installed in the scandal-plagued haredi-controlled East Ramapo Central School District has anti-Semitic overtones and his Republican caucus would not allow it to happen.
“We’re not doing it,” Flanagan told an Agudath Israel of America gathering, the hasidic Hamodia newspaper reported.
Flanagan also said the move to install that type of monitor is unconstitutional and unprecedented in New York.
Flanagan remarks were made to approximately one dozen Long Island haredi community leaders in a private meeting in the home of Yoel Edelstein, a trustee of Agudath Israel of America.
Flanagan also lashed out at the recent idea of setting aside three of the school board’s nine seats for public school parents.
“You all live in your communities because that’s what you love. I call school boards the ‘local board of directors.’ All of them are duly elected by the constituents in that community.…How is [reserving seats] constitutional? I mean, that violates every percept of due process and constitutionality and things like that. Really, what they want to do is overtake that school district. And we’re not doing it,” Flanagan said.
The board is made up almost exclusively of haredim who send their children to private haredi religious schools. Attempts to modify the election process to negate the power of the haredi bloc vote have all failed, although by narrow margins. The district’s public school students are mostly poor non-Jewish minorities, and the board has repeatedly been criticized for what many call the looting of the school district – shifting funds and resources to haredi religious schools while underfunding the public schools the board is supposed to manage.
State Senator David Carlucci – an independent Democrat who heads a small breakaway faction that is part of the Republican-led Senate majority coalition – introduced a new bill to to appoint the monitor with veto power. Flanagan said it won’t pass.
“I am supremely confident that it will not pass the New York State Senate. Rabbi [Shmuel] Lefkowitz [Agudath Israel’s Vice President for Community Affairs] and I spoke about this earlier today — in my opinion, it’s basically a fool’s errand and it is undermining the integrity of local management, home rule and local control,” Flanagan reportedly said at the meeting.
Two recent investigative reports by state-appointed monitors who lacked subpoena or veto power both found widespread mismanagement of the school district by the haredi-controlled school board and pervasive attempts by the school board to hide controversial actions from the public and limit or block public comment. The most recent report issued by Dennis Walcott and his team contained 19 recommendations for repairing the damaged East Ramapo schools. One of those recommendations was to install a fiscal oversight monitor with veto power over the board's actions; another was to set aside a small number of school board seats for public school parents.
A large number of media reports and investigations also found what appeared to be widespread mismanagement by the haredi-controlled school board along with repeated intentional violations of state open meeting law and (in some cases) the appearance of fraud.
But no matter how many public school students are hurt by the school board's actions, haredi allies in the state senate like Flanagan and similar (but proportionately fewer) allies in the state assembly have refused to take action to protect them.