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Saturday, January 30, 2021

Same Storm, Different Boats

RCSD families, students, and staff want to go back to school in person and want to do so safely. Will that be possible this year? Is there a number of educator or student deaths that we are willing to accept in order to have in-person school? Are RCSD, the city, and the state willing to spend the money to make school reopening truly safe? These questions are of particular concern in Rochester, where 87% of students and 40% of staff are Black, Latinx, multi-racial, or Native American.The consequences of racist health care, discriminatory housing, and employment practices are that these students, staff, and their families are at greater risk of contracting and becoming seriously ill from COVID-19.


We’re all in this together is a common slogan during this crisis. What this platitude fails to acknowledge is that, while we may all be in the same storm, we are not all in the same boat. The United States is at an unprecedented moment of overlap between a global pandemic, deep economic recession, and an uprising for Black Lives that exposes the structural race and class fissures that have resulted in higher unemployment, exposure, infection, and death rates in Black and Brown poor communities.


Unsurprisingly, the data is increasingly showing that Black and Latinx Rochestarians account for disproportionate COVID-19 cases or deaths. Latinx residents, 20% of the population, have accounted for 45% of COVID-19 cases and Black residents, 39% of the population, have accounted for 43% of the deaths. Black and Latinx communities are more likely to experience economic and social factors that increase risk of illness and death. Below are just some examples:
  • More likely to live in high-density housing (making social distancing difficult), because of decades of residential housing segregation caused by institutional racism. 8.8% of Rochester children were homeless at one point during the 2016-17 school year. 75% of homeless students in Monroe County are in the city of Rochester. 78% of homeless students in Monroe County were living with friends or family, also known as “doubled up”.
  • More likely to live in multi-generational households, increasing the risk of infection of vulnerable older family members. Such living situations also make it more difficult to isolate if an individual gets sick, as space may be limited. In Rochester, 86% of all virus fatalities had underlying health conditions.
  • More likely to live further away from medical centers and to be uninsured, leading to poorer underlying health and barriers to care, increasing the likelihood of severe illness and death from COVID-19. For example, Black, Latinx, and Native American individuals are more likely to have chronic illnesses such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease — all of which are linked to higher COVID-19 fatality.
  • When employed, more are likely to be required to work outside the home in “essential” jobs that place them in harm’s way for infection. For example, although Black workers make up only 12% of all employed workers, they make up 36% of all nursing, psychiatric, and home health aides.
  • More likely to have a job without paid sick leave, increasing their exposure to other workers who may be infected, and increasing the likelihood that they themselves will expose others to COVID-19. Latinx workers are less likely to have access to paid leave compared to White workers.
  • More likely to rely on public transportation, increasing the risk of viral exposure.
  • More likely to live in areas with poorer environmental and air quality, increasing the likelihood of preexisting health conditions. Rochester’s children are diagnosed with asthma at a high rate; 20% of RCSD students have been diagnosed with it, compared to less than 8% of school-age children that have asthma nationally.
  • Undocumented immigrants are ineligible for most governmental relief funds, and ineligible to enroll in the Affordable Care Act. More than 5 million U.S.-born children who have undocumented-immigrant parents are likely to suffer extreme poverty. As a result, they are much more likely to be uninsured and thus more likely not to receive the health care they need.
  • Over 4,000 (17%) of RCSD students are English Learners (ELs). While many ELs are native born, they overwhelmingly come from immigrant families. In addition to similar healthcare context as undocumented immigrants, EL’s families face added difficulties in poor translation or no translation in their native language.
  • The rate of COVID-19 cases among Black people in Monroe County is 4 times that of White people
  • The rate of COVID-19 cases among Latinx people is 2.5 times that of White people
  • Black and Latinx people are more than twice as likely than White people to die from COVID-19

The effect on human lives is quantifiable: the disproportionate effect of coronavirus means that at least twice as many Black, Latinx, and Asian Americans died because of structural racism that puts them more at risk compared to White people. Continuing the phased restart of physical schools during the pandemic will inevitably increase the risk of infection and death for all Rochesterarians, but especially for over 25,000 RCSD students and families who fall into a vulnerable category because of race and/or poverty.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Call to Action: Tax the Rich, Fund Schools


60 Minutes of Action: Tax the Rich, Fund Our Schools

With Incoming State Senators John Mannion and Elijah Reichlin-Melnick

Tuesday, December 22

4:00 to 5:00PM

Register in advance for this meeting:

The Democrats have a supermajority in the state legislature. Meet two former educators now heading to the state senate! 

Now is the time for the ultra-wealthy to finally pay their fair share so that we can fully-fund our schools and other needed services. Learn about a new state-wide campaign, the timeline and strategy. We have only three months. We need all hands on deck. Unfortunately, our union is not yet on board.

On this Zoom call, you will be given all the tools you need to understand the economy of New York State, how to contact our union, and how to do social media outreach, and we will get it done in just 60 minutes!


Facebook Announcement:

Friday, November 13, 2020

Guest Speaker: RCSD United Against Privatization


Join the movement to protect public education. 

We will begin with the facts about the RCSD budget, followed by Dr. Shawgi Tell sharing his expertise on the subject of the charter school system, with 30 minutes of Q & A for participants.

 Register at

Register Now

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Call to Action


Join us for a Call to Action
Tuesday, October, 20th from 4 - 4:30pm

First, let's get educated about what our schools are owed.  Then, let's take collective action by calling and emailing our union leaders to demand they fully fund our schools.  Register at:

All are encouraged and welcome to participate.

Waiting on the $5.6 billion owed to NYS students means:

  • Programs eliminated
  • Schools closed
  • Thousands of staff cut
  • Unsafe to reopen with in-person learning
  • Inequitable Funding 

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Statement in Support of RAP & BENTE


Saturday, August 15, 2020

The Rochester Organization of Rank-and-file Educators stands in solidarity with our RAP and BENTE union sisters and brothers in the face of the anticipated layoffs following Thursday’s announcement that the RCSD will begin the first ten weeks of school remotely. The district is projecting to cut 113 paraprofessional positions and “a number” of BENTE members. While we fully support the decision to shift to a 100 percent remote learning model for the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year, it is unconscionable that the RCSD would seek to eliminate these essential positions in the midst of a global pandemic which has already put unprecedented pressure on the members of our community, both personally and professionally. 

As fellow educators, paraprofessionals and non-teaching employees provide invaluable support to students, teachers, and administrators despite the fact that these positions are among the lowest-paying jobs in the RCSD. RAP members have worked alongside teachers to educate students through this pandemic, often with fewer resources and less support themselves. BENTE members were on the front lines from the beginning ensuring our children were fed and that our buildings were disinfected and secure. In the coming weeks, our students, their families, and teachers are going to need more support, not less, as we acclimate to this new model. Instead of outsourcing the work to keep students safe and engaged, the RCSD should rely on its staff that already have relationships with our students and ties to our community, as many RAP and BENTE members are city residents themselves. 

This decision to eliminate these workers is inhumane and ill-conceived. Considering the advancements made in the fight for racial and economic justice by Black Lives Matter, a movement the RCSD claims to support, it is reprehensible that the district seeks to terminate these positions which are made up of predominantly Black and Latinx union members. RORE calls on superintendent Lesli Myers-Small to honor former superintendent Terry Dade’s promise that BENTE union members be paid through the pandemic, recognize the dire need for paraprofessionals, and reverse her decision to lay off these truly essential workers. 

Your fellow workers, 


Saturday, August 15, 2020

Tell City Council: Money for Families, Not a Police Station


On Tuesday, August 18th, Rochester City Council will vote on a proposal to spend $16 million dollars ($12.5 million is construction) on a new police substation on East Main Street.  About seventy-five percent of this money will be borrowed which would cause a $12.6 million debt.

Meanwhile, the Rochester City School District made the correct decision in starting the 2020-21 school year online in order to prevent our children and their families from becoming sick.  But that means our parents need support. 

Therefore we are asking all concerned citizens to contact City Council to tell them to vote against funding this police station and instead to use the money to support families who are now scrambling to make arrangements for their children for the upcoming school year. 

Contact City Council and ask them to do the following:

1.  Vote down funding for this police substation.

2.  Use earmarked money to support families with rent/mortgage assistance, utilities assistance including internet, and food. 

3.  Consider issuing bonds for the same amount of money you were going to for the police station to support families.

4.  Enact a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures within the City of Rochester at least through June 2021.

Some talking points to may want to include are:

*There is an immediate need for support for families struggling to make arrangements for their children.

*Some parents may literally need to be paid to stay home with their kids in order to be able to pay their rent/mortgage, buy food, etc.

*Money spent on the police station could be used to help families get suitable wi-fi in order for their children to participate in online learning.

*Funding a police station while not helping Rochester families in immediate need shows a perspective in which punishment of citizens is more important than supporting them.

Speaking at this Tuesday’s City Council meeting may be too late.  That is why we are suggesting calling or emailing them BEFORE Tuesday.  There is not a lot of time so do this now, or join RORE in a Zoom meeting for help in doing this, followed by all of us taking direct action and making contact with Council members.  This Zoom meeting will take place:

Sunday, August 16th at 4pm.

The link to register for the Zoom meeting is:

The Zoom meeting will be recorded and posted online if you need help but cannot make it.  See our website after Sunday at 3pm for the video.

But of course you can contact us with questions at

City Council Members

Loretta Scott or 585-482-0407

Malik Evans or 585-428-7538

Mitch Gruber or 585-428-7538

Willie Lightfoot or 585-478-4603

Jacklyn Ortiz or 585-325-1960

LaShay Harris  or 585-235-5168

Mary Lupien or 585-406-4709

Michael Patterson or 585-451-2024

Jose Peo    or 585-690-2984


Friday, August 14, 2020

Internet For All Petition

After COVID-19 forced Rochester public schools to cancel in-person classes, thousands of students have been unable to continue their learning online. Spectrum promised low-income households two free months of its discounted “Internet Essentials” package, but many have been left unconnected due to restrictions and requirements placed on this offer. This digital divide is especially felt by Black students, nearly half of whom lack internet connectivity at home. After July 1st, our most vulnerable Rochestarians will be expected to pay for the Internet Essentials package, which is slower than 89% of connections nation-wide. Even as Black and low-income students struggle to even log on to class, Spectrum has yet to open existing higher-speed networks for free to those in need.

This callous stance appears even worse given the years of support Spectrum has received from Rochester taxpayers. Spectrum has received billions in assistance from a 20% property tax cut, city tax allowances since 2007, as well as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. In 2019, such corporate welfare enabled Spectrum to post a profit totaling $16.9 billion, 5.0% higher than in 2018, and CEO Thomas Rutledge made $8.16 million in salary and incentives in 2018, a 5% rise over his 2017 total compensation.

Despite calling Rochester its home and receiving billions in support from its neighbors, Spectrum has failed to support our most vulnerable students in this unprecedented time by refusing to provide students with the assistance they need. Though Spectrum has pledged to take action against digital disparities, the urgency of this pandemic calls for current efforts to be directed toward what is most needed—access to reliable, high quality internet.

To meet the needs of our most vulnerable students, we are petitioning Spectrum to:

1) Offer the Internet Essentials program for free to all low-income Rochester homes with students now throughout the end of the 2020-2021 school year

2) Increase the upload speed of Internet Essentials from 3 Mbps to 25 Mbps and the download speed from 25 Mbps to 100 Mbps

References and further reading:

1) Auxier, Brooke, and Monica Anderson. “As Schools Close Due to the Coronavirus, Some U.S. Students Face a Digital 'Homework Gap'.” Pew Research Center, 16 Mar. 2020, URL (petition banner image)

2) Nasr, Amir. “The Perilous Future of Internet Access for Students of Color.” New America, 12 July 2018, URL

3) Paul Ericson. "Why Digital Disparity Persists" Rochester Beacon, 31 January 2019, URL

4) Paul Ericson. "The cost of digital disparity in a pandemic" Rochester Beacon, 15 April 2020, URL

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