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Children's Agenda calling for RCSD budget to be more accessible

Feb 12, 2018

Credit thechildrensagenda.org

An advocacy group is calling for more transparency in the Rochester City School District budget decisions.

The Children's Agenda released their first policy brief Monday highlighting the unique needs of the district; including students with disabilities, transportation issues, and an influx of English language learners.

1 in 5 students have a disability in the district and 13 % of students are considered English language learners, the highest percentage in the county.

Eamonn Scanlon, the group's policy analyst, says a school budget reflects the morals of the community.

"If the most vulnerable students aren’t getting the right programming, that says a lot about what we value. And if we're not spending money on programs that we know work, we're clearly not serious about our students and their education."

Scanlon says 76% of RCSD funding comes from the state, an overwhelming amount compared to others in the county, meaning they don’t have a lot of control for setting their own budget or a lot of flexibility.  

He says the City of Rochester provides a fixed annual amount of  about $119 million, but this number doesn't change due to enrollment, inflation or other factors.

"And because that amount is fixed, there is no vote on the public budget. And for parents there’s a lack of engagement, a sense of a lack of control because they don’t get to engage directly in the process."

Scanlon hopes more parents will get involved in asking for transparency.

Lydia Rodriguez was an English language learner at RCSD and is now a parent. She says especially with more students come to Rochester from Puerto Rico, they need more resources.

"The issues of language and culture are closely connected for Puerto Ricans. When coming to the US, children need access to bilingual programs so they may keep their cultural roots and learn English at the same time. For too long many of these children have fallen through the cracks."

She said after Hurricane Maria, an increase in student trauma needs to be addressed.