It’s no secret that the East Ramapo Central School District is broken.
Mistrust, disenfranchisement, racism, anti-Semitism, brutal, expletive-laced verbal assaults directed toward parents and a lawyer who allegedly threatened an honor student. And this just scratches the surface.
I listened to the NPR ‘This American Life’ recording on East Ramapo and I thought they did a great job of summarizing the history as well as the turbulent current situation. It put a lot of things into perspective for a lot of people who aren’t familiar with the entire situation.
And then let’s throw in the nonsense that occurred on Election Day. Say what you will—and some are, but as I said in a previous article, I received a tip and followed up on it and quite frankly, I wasn’t expecting much but there it was. The phone was clearly answered ‘elections’ and when I inquired not once but twice if they were the “Rockland County Board of Elections” I received affirmative answers twice.
The person who told me about this spoke with a male previously who said they were with the Rockland County Board of Elections and when pressed backed away from the claim. There you have it folks; you can’t argue with the cold, hard facts.
This is about control. Control of the Town government and control of the East Ramapo Central School District. People have come out en masse to have their say regarding the Town and it remains to be seen just what the result will be.
On the other hand we are talking about and fighting about children. At its very essence it comes down to having to take from one in order to give to another and by any measure that’s just wrong.
That elected officials have allowed this continue for years shows a despicable lack of leadership. If they won’t publically come out and defend all of those among us who are the most vulnerable and those who truly can’t represent themselves then they have all utterly failed and should be sent packing, Dookies and all.
It’s also no secret that I grew up in Canada, Toronto to be exact. I grew up with two school boards. At the time they were known as the Toronto Board of Education and the Metropolitan Separate School Board. They are now known as the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) and the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB).
Things work a little differently in Ontario (the province Toronto is located in—here you would call a province a state) in that school funding doesn’t come from the federal government or local municipalities, instead it comes directly from the province. Long, difficult battles have been fought over the years but each board receives funding at the same per-student rate.
I spoke with John Yan, head of Communications for the TCDSB and got a brief history as well as a breakdown on how things work in Toronto. “In 1984 the Premier at the time promised to fund Catholic and public education equally. So we have no difference in the funding between Catholic and public funding in Ontario. There is a benchmark for educating students and it is equal between the school boards. In the old days when there was separate funding, it was all done at the local level. The city would have an allocation on your property tax bill for paying the education portion of your taxes. It was called the ‘mill rate’ from back in the days when people used to be farmers and they would take their corn to the mill and would pay the mill rate (a portion to the miller) On the tax form you could designate where your taxes go. Back in the old days, that’s how you directed your taxes to the public or the Catholic Board. Now that (education) is provincially funded it allows you to differentiate in terms of who you can vote for in school board trustee elections. The governance model is that we have a public board and a separate Catholic board. If a voter doesn’t make that designation in advance, it defaults to public however voters can still ask for a Catholic ballot.”
The equal funding for both public and Catholic school students went into effect in September of 1985 so there is a 29 year track record that East Ramapo and State officials can look at. In addition to Ontario, Manitoba also offers equal funding to Catholic school students as well.
Size and scope should not be an issue if this idea is considered for East Ramapo. The Toronto Catholic District School Board is the largest publically funded Catholic School System in the entire world with a $1.12 billion annual budget, 92,000 students and 14,000 staff in 201 schools.
The Toronto Catholic District School Board is open to anyone—almost. “One of the compromises that was made in order to get equal funding for the high schools was that they have to accept everyone. You will find that a lot of our high schools have a lot of Muslims, Jews and Hindis but at the elementary level K-8 our rule in Toronto is that the child does not have to be baptized Catholic but at least one of their parents has to be a baptized Catholic. A lot of the Catholic boards in smaller, rural areas who are fighting to stay open now have open enrollment for non-Catholics.”
This idea is one that must be explored in a non-partisan manner. It is abundantly clear that a great deal of wrong-doing has taken place. I have a great deal of confidence that those responsible will be brought to justice—any new proposal would not be at all acceptable if those who have abused the system and broken the law were to be absolved of responsibility of their crimes.
This may not be the best or even the final solution for East Ramapo but it is clearly working and working well in Toronto. Think of this as a starting point that will hopefully result in constructive dialog that ultimately results in a solution that works for everyone’s children. Opponents will likely say that if something such as this comes to fruition it will spur other groups to lobby for their own school districts. In my opinion, that isn’t a valid enough reason to not at the very least explore this and perhaps other options. Others will inevitably say that the taxpayers only have the obligation to fund a public education and that funding private and/or religious-based education falls outside of that mandate. These folks would be correct however my question is this: How well is the current system working out for the children in East Ramapo?
Yeah, that’s exactly what I thought.
People bring their problems to the table and expect others to fix them; rarely do they arrive with their problems and proposed solutions at the same time. East Ramapo has a big problem that requires a solution right now and yet I see plenty of people fighting within the current system. While commendable, I don’t see anyone working toward a fair and equitable solution for everyone.
We discussed some of the differences between the two countries and I pointed out that Canada was more accepting of others than most places are but John summed it up best when he said “Our whole country is based on taking a leap of faith in terms of welcoming everyone.”
My fellow Ramapo residents; isn’t this the ideal that we should all aspire to?