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Tuesday 18 September 2018
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The Children’s Agenda Calls for More Accessible RSCD Budget

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By Staff –

tca-logoThe Children’s Agenda has released a policy brief calling for the Rochester City School District’s annual budget to be more accessible to community members.

“When it comes to how the school district should spend its money, everyone has an opinion, but few people have the facts,” The Children’s Agenda CEO Larry Marx said. “The Children’s Agenda strongly believes that decisions about scarce public resources should be based on the strongest evidence of outcomes. Along with effective parent and community engagement in schools, that’s the key to helping improve educational results for city school children.”

Unlike most districts in New York State, RCSD is one of only five financially-dependent districts, the organization stated.

And, according to TCA, this means that RCSD is dependent on the state to cover rising costs, while the community has no direct vote on its budget. Rochester provides a fixed annual amount of $119.1 million, the organization said, and this number is always the same regardless of enrollment, inflation, or changes in property values.

“Being a financially dependent district means we can’t change the number we have to work with, but we can educate parents on the resources available and how that money is allocated,” Policy Analyst Eamonn Scanlon stated. “The district is currently planning the budget, and looking at big issues like special education, transportation, neighborhood schooling, and English as a Second Language, so if you want to improve how those resources are allocated, now’s the time to get involved.”

The group’s policy brief has presented the following findings:

  • Extreme Cost Drivers: There are many structural cost drivers unique or extreme to RCSD. Students with Disabilities (SWD), English Language Learners (ELL), Transportation, and poverty-related programs. RCSD has the highest expenses in all of these categories among school districts in Monroe County.
  • Rochester is Unique: Public schools in Rochester, Buffalo, and Syracuse are very unique. Their demographics are extreme outliers compared to other districts in the US. The funding and policy environments they face are specific to the five biggest school districts in New York. With so few comparable school districts, the context of RCSD’s spending must be looked at carefully.
  • Special Education Spikes Costs: This is the most significant cost driver for RCSD due to high classification rates (20% of RCSD students are considered SWD), and education costs for SWD ($29,591 per-student). New York State public schools spend 149% more on SWD than on students in general education. Additional spending is necessary to meet these students’ needs, which greatly inflates per-pupil spending, and creates a false perception of funding flexibility.

Visit http://thechildrensagenda.org/ to view the full policy brief, or for additional information regarding the group.

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