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Public Kid vs. Private Kid


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Reporting by Daryl Khan
Photos by Robert Stolarik

In Ramapo, New York, a town divided by race, religion, and culture, a demographic split has allowed public money to pour into private religious schools, resulting in huge cuts to the already decimated public school system. Community leaders fear that the cuts, which will essentially eliminate all non state-mandated programs like music, sports and art, will create a school-to-prison pipeline.

To understand how the members of a religious sect took control of the school board and thus the district, the only majority black and Latino school district in all of Rockland County, one has to be aware of local demographics, little known loopholes in the law, and the anti-modernist tradition of the Hasidic community.

Leaders of the Hasidic community here have argued that before they earned a majority on the board, public school advocates were not providing them their fair share. Since the community has taken control of the board support for public schools and other services that serve public school children have been slashed. Leaders of the Hasidic community here argue that their children don’t need sports, or arts or music, so why do the public school children? In practice, providing public support only to the basics and nothing else, is virtually unheard of in the state, or in most public school districts.

Spring Valley School District

Spring Valley School District

Students, parents and activists protest outside the East Ramapo Central School District building where a meeting was being held by the school board to discuss budgets for the 2013-2014 school year. (Robert Stolarik for JJIE)

Spring Valley School District

Spring Valley School District

Inside the East Ramapo Central School District building where a meeting was being held by the school board to discuss budgets for the 2013-2014 school year Tuesday night. A reflection in the window of the school board meeting reveals a synagogue that sits across the street. (Robert Stolarik for JJIE)

Spring Valley School District

Spring Valley School District

Students, parents, and activists protest at the school board meeting discussing the budget for the 2013-2014 school year. (Robert Stolarik for JJIE)

Spring Valley School District

Spring Valley School District

Students, parents, and activists protest outside the East Ramapo Central School District building where a school board meeting discussed the budget for the 2013-2014 school year. (Robert Stolarik for JJIE)

Community members worry that the teenagers in the public school system, after witnessing their social safety net slashed by a religiously-dominated majority on the school board, will turn to violence as a solution to the problems for which the intractable racially and religiously tainted politics here has had no answer.

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