ROCHESTER, N.Y. Dec. 18, 2019 — Rochester teachers, paraprofessionals, city school parents and families, and community members will again rally outside the Rochester City School District Offices from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Thursday to oppose mid-year staffing cuts that would increase class sizes, disrupt relationships and eliminate services for city students.
American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten, as well as New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) President Andy Pallotta, Executive Vice President Jolene DiBrango and Secretary-Treasurer Philippe Abraham, will join the rally outside the district offices (131 W. Broad Street) prior to the school board meeting that begins at 6 p.m. The board is expected to vote on Superintendent Terry Dade’s plan to cut staff in schools citywide, including about 150 teachers and 15 paraprofessionals.
"Massive protests organized by parents, students and community members send a clear message that mid-year classroom cuts are unacceptable and cruel. Yet the administration does not appear to be listening," RCSD parent Jodi Beckwith said. "Our students and teachers should not suffer the consequences of structural budget deficits they had nothing to do with. Instead, the Board of Education and superintendent should fiercely advocate for the $85 million in Foundation Aid that Rochester is owed. Our students deserve better."
“Throughout this mess, our message has been clear: Spare our students,” Rochester Teachers Association President Adam Urbanski said. “Disrupting the relationships that our teachers have fostered with their students will have a devastating impact on education. We will not soon forget who turns a deaf ear to teachers, students, parents and community members by voting for this ill-advised, hurtful plan instead of working collaboratively to chart a better path forward for our students.”
“This plan penalizes children for mistakes that adults made in managing the district’s finances,” Rochester Association of Paraprofessionals President Angie Rivera said. “Students don’t deserve chaos, which this plan will create. They deserve a Board of Education that shows real leadership and says no to devastating staff cuts.”
“Midyear staffing cuts are harmful to students and staff. At best, it’s a Band-Aid, masking a very deep wound. At worst, they injure students’ prospects forever,” AFT President Randi Weingarten said. “They disrupt student learning and leave hardworking educators scrambling to support their own families. It’s why these mid-year cuts are almost never done, even in the worst of recessions. These cuts could have been prevented had Rochester City School District officials worked with the Rochester Teachers Association to find meaningful, workable solutions to the issues facing the public schools, instead of balancing the city budget on the backs of vulnerable students and the people in the classroom every day supporting them. And they still can be averted, through working with the state Legislature and the governor, as we have done in other years in Yonkers and other cities.”
“It isn’t too late to stop this disastrous plan,” NYSUT President Andy Pallotta said. “Rochester’s students do not get a do-over, and rather than punishing them for miscalculations made by adults, the district must chart a better path forward that doesn’t disrupt their education.”
For the past two weeks, education professionals who received layoff notices have been forced to prepare their students for a disruption in their education and themselves and their families for the prospects of being without work in a matter of weeks.
“Before my students even walked in the door this year, I made connections with them through a community walk this past summer, visiting their classes last year and getting to know them on a personal level during lunch or recess,” said Ariel McDowell, a 6th grade teacher who received a layoff notice Dec. 6. “As time goes by, it is becoming increasingly difficult and stressful knowing that the rest of the year relies on a vote on the superintendent's plan, which went against his word. My students’ education should not be disrupted, as they are relying on this education to create a life of their own someday. The result of this layoff will hurt my family of 36 students more than anything, and that is simply unjustifiable.”
Instead of devastating mid-year cuts, the RTA and RAP have advocated for:
- cuts from the Central Office and district bureaucracy, if necessary, to keep the cuts away from the classroom to minimize disruption;
- the district to lobby the state for more funding and delay action as much as possible until Rochester receives more state support; and
- the district to postpone cuts until the end of the school year when they would be less disruptive, when the district will have more information about the budget moving forward and when there will be more certainty about additional state funding.