by Eamonn Scanlon, Education Policy Manager, The Children’s Agenda
The RCSD 2020-21 Budget had an $86 million gap to close. The main reason was a lack of state funding (Foundation Aid) to meet children’s academic and social-emotional needs. Under these circumstances TCA looked for solutions that made the best of a terrible financial situation. The RCSD Board of Education adopted many of our proposed changes including:
- Restoration of 8 Special Education positions vital to coordinating services;
- Restoration of 12 social workers needed to provide mandatory psychological counseling and day-to-day mental health supports and crisis management;
- Retaining 8 restorative practices coaches;
- Compromise to only open 1 new Pre-K center, returning 216 Pre-K slots to Community Based Organizations and saving the RCSD millions of dollars;
- Restoring 5 Pre-K parent engagement staff and Pre-K 2.5 social workers with savings from not opening the stand-alone Pre-K center;
- Restoring the Chiefs of Student Supports and Special Education to ensure students’ social emotional needs and special education services are considered at the cabinet level of the district administration;
- Reducing the number of School Resource Officers (armed police) from 12 to 7;
- Reducing spending on instructional coaches by 7 (these coaches were originally added to the budget despite the severe budget crisis)
- Asking the City of Rochester to waive the $10 million cash capital requirement (capital spending could be reimbursed by the state if bonded out instead);
- More equitable cuts at central office ($3.5 million in total reductions).
These changes were made because of the thousands of emails you sent to the RCSD Board of Education, and the dozens of parents, community members, and students who spoke at board meetings. These changes will ensure some of the district’s most vulnerable students receive mandated services, and successful programs remain in place.
Now Rochester City Council must approve the RCSD budget on June 16th. City Council cannot reject a balanced budget from the RCSD, but they can influence some of the district’s policies and finances. Three things we will be asking City Council to do are:
- Waive the $10 million cash capital requirement. This compels the RCSD to spend $10 million on improving buildings every year out of their regular budget (general fund). City Council graciously waived the requirement this year and they should do so again next year;
- Work with the RCSD to either eliminate or reduce the School Resource Officer (armed police) program. Any reduction or elimination of the program must be approved by City Council;
- Approve requests by the RCSD to deal with potential cash flow problems (Revenue Anticipation Note) to prevent mid-year layoffs caused by delays in state aid.