Rochester parents, students teachers and education advocates call on state education commissioner to block district's threatened 250 teacher and staff cuts
City Council votes on budget June 16
ROCHESTER, NY - Parents, students and education advocates partnered with the Rochester Teacher's Association to call for the swift intervention of Commissioner Richard Mills and the State Education Department to prevent 250 threatened teacher and staff cuts district-wide.
This proposal, approved by the Rochester City School Board last Thursday, will go before the city council for a budget vote in June. The proposal to eliminate 250 jobs, including 230 teacher positions, was approved by the school board on the same day that the State Education Department released its 2009 English Language Arts exam results for students in grades 3-8 which showed substantial progress for Rochester students. The progress follows two years of record funding increases in the 2007 and 2008 state budgets due to the advocacy efforts of the Alliance for Quality Education, Metro Justice, the Rochester Teacher's Association and other statewide community groups, including teachers, parents and students.
The Rochester City School District received federal stimulus aid in the form of Title I and IDEA funds on top of the regular annual Title I and IDEA allotments. These funding streams are allocated to schools with high concentrations of students in poverty and students with disabilities respectively. The additional funds were intended to avoid devastating layoffs and to retain teaching positions. The Rochester Teacher's Association is currently exploring legal and regulatory action arguing that the district has failed to properly utilize $17 million of stimulus funds to avert teacher layoffs. The groups seek immediate action from the commissioner with clear instructions regarding proper usage of the federal stimulus dollars.
"By cutting over 200 teaching positions Superintendent Brizard is increasing class size. Studies have found that students in smaller classes substantially outperformed students in larger classes. It is very clear, by increasing class size the superintendent is undermining student achievement and not using Federal Stimulus Aid appropriately," said John Pavone of the Rochester Teacher's Association
"Rochester students have made measurable progress. Smaller class sizes as a district wide policy, fueled by Contract for Excellence funding, have clearly contributed in large portion to the district's recent performance gains. The cuts proposed last week by the school board threatens to nullify the advancements our children have made and virtually erase the last two years of progress," said Demond Meeks, Alliance for Quality Education Organizer.
"When will the district put our children first? We know that smaller class sizes are more conducive to learning, yet the district is cutting teachers," said Samira Fuller a Rochester school district parent.
The recent release of the English Language Arts test scores illuminates the impact that small class sizes and adequate funding of programs has on all students. The ELA test scores have increased in recent years with the largest increases happening between 2007 and 2009. Dramatic cuts to desperately needed teaching positions will mean larger class sizes and overcrowded classrooms. In 2009, the percentage of Rochester students meeting State standards in ELA in grades 3-8 increased from 2008 levels by 9 points from 47% to 56%.
"We have local evidence that smaller class sizes work," said Glenny Williams Alliance for Quality Education Statewide Steering Committee member and parent.
CONTACT: Demond Meeks. 585-530-9800 - Alliance for Quality Education