The City of Rochester’s Proposed Budget for 2021-22 directs expenditures to support our community’s recovery from 16 months of health, economic, and social crises. While pandemic restrictions are slowly being lifted and many Rochester residents are returning to some sense of normalcy, the healing from losses experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic has just begun. Children are the center of our concern.
Recovery Context for City Children
– As a result of the loss of employment and reduction of hours for adults, approximately 10,000 children in Monroe County were newly entered into or were considered near poverty in June 2020.
– The resumption of in-person learning in the Rochester City School District (RCSD) began in January 2021 for some students with the highest special education needs. That was followed in February by the return of some general education students, although using a hybrid model that allows for only 2 days per week in-person instruction. In May 2021, the majority of RCSD students continued to learn fully remotely.
– Rochester saw significant declines in enrollment in pre-K education during the time of remote learning. As reported by RCSD staff in the Early Childhood Department, pre-K enrollment in 2020-2021 is down by about 1,000 children. Additionally, 500 – 700 5-year-olds who would normally be enrolled in and attending kindergarten are unaccounted for.
– The estimated days of learning lost in RCSD were, on average, 124 school days in English and 230 school days in Math. It is important to remember that these estimates are only for the impact of school disruption from March – June 2020. They do not account for the impact of remote and hybrid learning from September 2020 – present.
In this report, The Children’s Agenda commends new and existing City initiatives proposed in the 2021-22 budget that will benefit children and youth in the year ahead and makes recommendations where we see an opportunity for better use of City resources.
For the 2021-22 fiscal year, we look closely at the City’s plans to provide support to children, youth and families who were impacted by the public health emergency, at the long overdue reforms in the Rochester Police Department (RPD), and at the new initiatives to address institutional racism, prevent violence, and respond to residents’ needs for mental and behavioral health services. These include the Office of Neighborhood Safety, exploration of civilian oversight of public safety functions, the Police Accountability Board, the Budget Equity Project, the Peace Fellowship, and expanded Crisis Intervention Services. Each of the City’s new initiatives should include a built-in robust evaluation component to help identify efficacy at meeting stated objectives and redirect resources away from those that are ineffective.
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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.