by Dan Schrack
But understand where that money is going can be a challenge.
This year’s budget is very different from years past – so much so, that some of the people involved still don’t know how your money is being spent.
With just days before the district’s budget is due, there are still many unanswered questions as to what is and is not included in the final draft.
“I’m telling you, it is very confusing,” said Vice President Beatriz LeBron. “But it did not help that we changed our format so dramatically that you can not keep up.”
The 2022-23 plan includes tens of millions of dollars in one-off special aid from the state and federal government. The funding comes with spending deadlines and a detailed layout of how the appropriations must be used.
But Eamonn Scanlon, education policy director for The Children’s Agenda, says that is where the clarity ends.
“We are not saying the money is being used illicitly in anyway, but we are saying that we’re not sure it’s being spent the most effectively,” he said.
Over the past several years, the district has changed how the budget is presented, condensing categories, combining services, and collapsing detailed breakdowns.
A simple search of line items – which one might think would be the same year to year – results in no matched.
“There’s no way to compare this budget to past budgets. We don’t have the same level of information,” Scanlon said.
“It is hard to follow. It is not transparent. It is very difficult to do a comparison year to year because not only did the verbiage change, but the things that were in certain item budget lines also changed,” LeBron said.
And without the granular detail, LeBrown says she can’t support the current spending plan.
Concerns about transparency have also been a sticking point for Dr. Shelley Jallow, the state-appointed monitor.
13WHAM has repeatedly asked the district and the state education department for interviews, which have been repeatedly denied. 13WHAM also asked if the district will address concerns over its budget outline next year. That’s to be determined.
Meanwhile, the school board will continue deliberating the budget at Thursday. The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. More information is available here.
Crisis in the Classroom is a weekly series in which 13WHAM looks at challenges being faced in the Rochester City School District. Send story ideas by emailing 13WHAMclassroomtips@gmail.com or by calling (585) 210-2004.
The Children’s Agenda advocates for effective policies and drives evidenced-based solutions for the health, education and success of children. We are especially committed to children who are vulnerable because of poverty, racism, health inequities and trauma.