Spring Valley residents who support a class-action lawsuit against the East Ramapo school system are asking state Education Commissioner John King to block the district from using school funds to defend officials in several ongoing legal actions, The Journal News/Lohud.com reports today.
Steven White, whose son is a recent graduate from East Ramapo, and Betty Carmand, a mother of three current students, are petitioning the state for an “emergency stay” on up to $2 million they say has been set aside to defend board members, administrators and former employees.
“We think that money is better spent on educating the kids,” Carmand told The Journal News, noting that the recent loss of collaborative classes, school psychologists and funding for summer school has impacted her children.
Carmand and White’s petition claims that the district recently hired two outside law firms to represent school board members and others at rates ranging from $500 to $750 an hour.
Advocates for Justice, a public interest law firm, is backing the petition. The New York City firm filed a class action against the school district on behalf of about 200 parent plaintiffs over the summer. The lawsuit, which names Superintendent Joel Klein and other officials, alleges that the defendants illegally schemed to divert millions of dollars in public funds to support private religious schools. It also claims the school district segregates students in special-education programs based on their race.
Advocates for Justice has a separate petition that alleges a “pattern of impropriety” among five sitting board members and seeks to oust them. White and Carmand are also plaintiffs in the action. Lawyers for the school board members have said the claims are untimely and without merit. They have asked King to dismiss the petition against them.
Klein couldn’t be reached for comment Monday. He has estimated the district needs to find at least $1 million in its budget to cover costs related to the complaints, and further cuts to programs and staff could be on the table.