Ellen Jaffee has long demonstrated dedication to the East Ramapo schools, seeking to revive well-rounded education for students and secure additional funds for the ailing district. That her challenger, Republican Joseph Chabot, cites East Ramapo as among her biggest weaknesses, speaks volumes. We support Jaffee’s return to the Assembly, to represent the 97th District that encompasses the southern swath of Rockland County, from Nyack to Hillburn.
In this district, which includes the high-ranking school districts of Pearl River and South Orangetown, as well as beleagured East Ramapo, education is a key issue. The state has an outsized role in education — from funding to standards-setting. Jaffee’s experience (she is a retired special education teacher) serves the region well. For example, Jaffee worked hard for East Ramapo oversight, and added funding, so full-day kindergarten could be restored. Chabot questioned the need for full-day kindergarten, saying, “what’s the purpose?” Really?
Jaffee demonstrates a deep and thorough understanding of New York’s convoluted school aid formulas; she can explain not only how they work, but why they serve her district so poorly. She believes it’s her mission to fulfill a “constitutional charge to provide equal access to quality education, regardless of a child’s Zip code.”
Chabot advocated for audits of school districts every two years, but Jaffee explained the state Comptroller’s Office already does them. Chabot questioned why he hadn’t seen such audits. See osc.state.ny.us and click “audits.”
Chabot knocked Jaffee over her original support for the Gap Elimination Adjustment, a formula for reducing school aid to help close the state’s vast budget deficit. Jaffee said there were few other options at the time. While the GEA was originally portrayed as a “one-shot” reduction of aid, it continued. The first year, Jaffee advocated and won an increase in federal aid for education. She then fought for a reduction of, and finally this year, abolishment of the GEA.
Jaffee has lobbied hard against the Education Investment Tax Credit, which would allow significant tax cuts for donations to private and charter schools, and dent state funds used to support public education. With the governor among the tax credit’s supporters, it’s been a battle to keep the EITC from taking effect.
Jaffee doesn’t shy away from tackling lightning-rod issues: she says she supports a pay raise for legislators — a 47 percent raise being considered by a special commission to make up for decades of no pay increases. Every other legislator scrambles to distance themselves from the pay hike proposal (even though it wouldn’t exist if they were all against it). We oppose such a fat raise, but admire Jaffee’s straight take: better compensation would draw more people to public service. And she wants stronger ethics reform to match the higher pay.
Jaffee, since her days in the Rockland County Legislature, has been steeped in environmental issues, particularly Rockland’s water resources. (In the Rockland Legislature, Jaffee passed a bill that mandates landlords have wells tested periodically and house sellers provide testing; she has introduced a similar bill at the state level.) She worked with Rockland officials and environmentalists to prove that a plan for a Hudson River desalination plant was too costly and unnecessary. Jaffee has kept close tabs on the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement project, and demonstrates her commitment to hold the Department of Transportation accountable for ensuring a workable public-transportation aspect to the project.
Jaffee vs. Chabot
The race: New York State Assembly District 97
The candidates: Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee, a Democrat from Suffern who is also on the Green Party line, is the incumbent; the retired educator also served as a Rockland County legislator and a Suffern village trustee. The challenger is Joseph Chabot, a Republican from Tappan, who is also on the Conservative and Reform lines. Thomas Gulla, who lost the Democratic primary to Jaffee, also appears on the Working Families line.
The district: The 97th includes Orangetown, the Ramapo villages of Spring Valley, Suffern, Airmont, Chestnut Ridge, Hillburn, parts of Montebello, New Square, and areas in unincorporated Ramapo, including sections of Monsey.
NYS Assembly District 97 Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2016. Peter Carr/lohud