Carol Elizabeth Owens
The Rochester City School District budget crisis has forced the community into a crash course on finance.
The Board of Education and the Office of Parent Engagement have scheduled an overview of the budget at a town hall meeting, 6 p.m. Feb. 20 at East High School, 1801 Main St. The public is invited to ask questions about the process.
This is the second public education attempt in the past week.
On Feb. 13, The Children’s Agenda (TCA) and ROC the Future (RTF) held a teach-in to explain how the district’s financial crisis developed. One goal was to prepare community members for RCSD’s upcoming series of budget town hall meetings and budget hearings related to preparation of the 2020-2021 RCSD budget.
“The way we fund schools is a reflection of a racist legacy that we have as a country and as a state,” said TCA policy analyst Eamonn Scanlon.
“… The constant crisis mode that we’re in makes it hard to have real conversations about improving academics,” said Scanlon, who added that the community needs to “get involved in the process, to make the district whole, to make the district better for every child.”
“If you don’t address institutional racism, we’re not going to actually break apart the reasons that Rochester’s city schools exist the way they do – the fact that RCSD is 90% students living in poverty, the fact that it is 90% students of color, that’s intentional,” Scanlon said. “That’s housing policy, that’s the discrimination for employment that has kept people down for many years. That is a lot of both individual prejudices and systemic and legal prejudices that have prevented people from accessing a well-funded functional school district.”
Scanlon said that for many years, most of the students in the district were white. He said the “white flight” to the suburbs left the district “in this negative cycle where people who can leave do and then it makes the whole school system a little shakier and then more people leave and so it gets to this point where, ‘Who wants to stay?’ We’re in that very bad place of ‘things aren’t looking up,’ so the only people who are staying are the people who can’t go anywhere.”
Jackie Campbell, director of RTF said, “RCSD is going to share their projections for moving forward with next year’s budget. You can’t weigh in or even think about it if you do not understand how we got into this situation that we’re in. RTF hopes to create some awareness and understanding, building knowledge – because knowledge is power.”
For information about TCA’s assessment of the RCSD budget crisis, go to thechildrensagenda.org.
For the schedule of RCSD 2020-2021 budget town hall sessions and budget hearings, go to www.rcsdk12.org/Budget