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Wednesday, April 28, 2021

RORE Budget Response and Demands 2021-22

Rochester Organization of Rank and File Educators (RORE) 2021-2022 Budget Response and Demands

Over the past decade and a half Rochester City Schools have been intentionally deprived of funding. This upcoming year, after struggling through a global pandemic, our district has a unique opportunity to start to undo the state's denial of  the Foundation Aid owed to RCSD for 14 years and the City of Rochester’s stagnant RCSD funding for 15 years.

RCSD has the highest categories in Monroe County for economically disadvantaged population (90%), the Students with Disabilities (21.4%), English Language Learners (15%), and transportation costs per student ($2,225),  as well as increasing Charter School tuition costs ($95.8 Million).  

(Children’s Agenda, April 2021)

The RCSD has been caught in a cycle of underfunding resulting in massive layoffs of staff and downsizing of schools, specialized programs, extracurricular activities, and other opportunities and resources for students.

Superintendent Lesli Myers-Small and State Monitor, Shelly Jallow, have approached the 2021-2022 budget from a deficit standpoint. They are quoting low enrollment, disregarding how the pandemic has played a large factor in Pre-K and K enrollment this past year, as well as the loss of programs and opportunities that may lead families to seek alternative education options for their students. They are quoting a student to teacher ratio of 10:1, while ignoring the number of educators who serve as co-teachers, resource providers, and teachers on special assignment. The specialized programs are required to have smaller class sizes. Educational research tells us that students perform better with smaller class sizes, rather than classes filled to the maximum allowed capacity. They are questioning sustainability, not taking into account the fact that we need to invest in the district in order to see improvement.

With the Federal Stimulus money that is being given to the RCSD this year, as well as the newly guaranteed Foundation Aid from the State, RCSD leadership is in a position to invest these funds. In providing enhanced resources and opportunities for our students. We need to provide our students and families with schools that offer them the desired support, enrichment, and opportunity.

The Superintendent and District need to be transparent about where the Stimulus and Foundation Aid funds are going, and how these funds are going to make positive change in the district. As the budget is developed, focus should also be given, and clarity provided, as to how funding will be equitably divided among all schools in the district, so that all students are receiving the same level of opportunities and resources.

1)      Increased staffing:

  Hire more BENTE support staff and offer a living wage, including custodial staff to maintain a high level of sanitation cleanliness in our buildings as we return more students to schools as there is still pandemic risk, cafeteria staff so that we may provide our students with high quality, healthy breakfast and lunch, and bus drivers as their will be increase in bus routes and extracurricular after school activities.

   Hire more counselors, social workers, and members of the ROC Restorative Team to provide extra Social Emotional support for students as they return to school following the pandemic. This could involve creating permanent or temporary partnerships with community programs, such as the Center for Youth, to help fill this need.

  Hire Intervention teachers to support students in Math and English at all levels across the District.

  Invest in recruiting and retaining racially, ethnically, culturally and linguistically diverse staff.

  Hire more art, music, library, and physical education teachers so elementary students can have art for more than a half of the school year.

2)      Extended Day, and Year Round Enrichment Opportunities for Students:

  Provide a “Ramp Up” program leading up to the beginning of the school year, offering the opportunity for students who have remained remote during the 20-21 school year to reacclimate to being in the school building. This program could also offer arts enrichment, resource, time with counselors, and other Social Emotional opportunities.

  Provide and/or invest in summer opportunities for students including arts enrichment, athletics, internships, community building, and supplementary academic enrichment.

  Begin development and implementation to provide year-round arts education in our Elementary Schools.

  Use extended school day time to provide Social Emotional support including free play for young students, opportunities for counselors to meet with small groups, arts enrichment, and restorative/mindfulness practice.

3)      Increased Staff Support:

  Provide increased, paid BOCES level training for paraprofessionals and teachers aides.

  Fully fund, and provide Anti-Racist and Anti-Bias Training for all staff, including District Leadership.

  Invest in the training and implementation of a more culturally responsive curriculum.

  Increase classroom funds so that teachers may provide better support and materials for their students, and standardize funds for all classrooms across the district.

We believe that our students will benefit most if we think intentionally and with urgency while we have the funding, and approach our budget decisions from a standpoint of investment rather than deficit. The above list offers suggestions that may appear bold to some, but they are essential to providing our students with enriching and engagement learning opportunities.  

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.