Budget Analyses

Quick links to most recent budget analysesRochester City School District, Monroe County, New York State, or The City of Rochester
Early investments in solutions that set kids on a trajectory of success are much more cost-effective than dealing with the aftermath of their struggle or failure. The Children’s Agenda ensures elected officials fulfill their obligation to support, protect, and defend children, youth, and their families. As an independent advocacy organization, we are impartial, deliberate, and persistent in keeping the policy and funding decisions most beneficial to kids at the top of the local, state, and federal agenda. Our recommendations for smart, effective investments span the age spectrum and the issue spectrum:
  • Increasing the number of parents who receive parenting education through home visitation.
  • Increasing the number of children who receive high-quality early care and education.
  • Increasing the number of children who receive support for social emotional health.
The Children’s Agenda analyzes annual budgets to ensure public expenditures map to what’s effective and what does the most good. With no affiliation with or funding from government or children’s services providers, we look at the impact of proposed funding plans on kids and families in the Rochester City School District, Monroe County, New York State, or The City of Rochester. We look out for taxpayers, making sure that expenditures are for evidence-based preventive programs that work—not expensive, remedial, or ineffective programs.
TRANSPARENCY:  The overriding goal of this budget analysis is to increase transparency. The Children’s Agenda met with dozens of RCSD parents during the 2017-2018 school year who expressed confusion and doubts about the school district’s spending priorities. Many of these parents felt disconnected from the process because they lacked clear information, and did not trust that their feedback was taken seriously. The Children’s Agenda believes greater transparency is necessary to strengthen collaboration and trust between all members of the school community. Everyone should know where money is being spent and why.
BILINGUAL EDUCATION:  The RCSD 2018-2019 proposed budget adds significant numbers (45.6 Full Time Equivalent) of bilingual staff, the most being special education teachers. The Superintendent has made a clear commitment to improving bilingual education through the Path Forward initiative and her budget priorities. The Children’s Agenda applauds these efforts, and will be watching closely to make sure positions are filled and implementation receives adequate support.
SPECIAL EDUCATION:  The proposed 2018-2019 budget restores and expands important positions for special education. It is essential that these additions are approved and are quickly filled. There are no easy fixes for special education. However, with greater transparency, stability, and the best use of resources, we will make serious improvements for Rochester’s children
POSITIVE SCHOOL CLIMATE:  There have been significant gains in reducing suspensions and building relationships by the RCSD over the past 3 and a half years, and The Children’s Agenda applauds this work. The District has worked with consultant Dr. Joy DeGruy, author of Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome, since 2016. She has offered a number of professional development opportunities to District staff on topics such as culturally responsive education, racism, and implementation of “The Relationship Model of Educational Intervention”. The Board of Education has established an Advisory Committee on School Climate. Supporting this work will require trained professionals in restorative practices and ongoing professional development for all staff. The Children’s Agenda supports a robust implementation of the Community Task Force on School Climate recommendations for improved school climate districtwide.
  • Pre-K to Kindergarten Transition – The District should collaborate with the Early Childhood Development Initiative (ECDI) and other experts to develop evidence-based strategies and practices around early childhood transitions, and should ensure that the K-2 curriculum helps create a smooth transition from Pre-K to elementary grades.
  • Unmet Need for Developmental Services – Because these reimbursement rates are largely set at the state level, the District should continue to partner with advocates, parents, providers and other community members to advocate in Albany for increased reimbursement rates for providers of Preschool Special Education services.
  • Summer Learning for Pre-K Students – We urge the District to extend its support of summer programs to Pre-K students, who can benefit greatly from these high quality programs that help them retain and build on the progress made in Pre-K experiences.

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”

Rochester's Own Frederick Douglas

INNOVATE AND DEDICATE: The growing needs among Monroe County children are surpassing current resources. The County should explore new revenue streams that can be directed solely toward evidence-based programs and services for its youngest residents. Examples include a soda tax, a carve-out of economic development or COMIDA dollars (like the NYS Upstate Revitalization Initiative’s $3 M support for child care subsidies), or a small fee attached to certain transactions.
INCENTIVIZE EARLY SUPPORTS: The County Dept. of Health should increase rates for “Related Services” for Preschool Special Education to recruit and retain more providers. There is a critical lack of qualified providers to deliver special education services to preschool children (ages 3-5), forcing hundreds of children throughout our community to wait months for needed services. A key barrier to recruiting more providers is low reimbursement rates for occupational and physical therapy, speech-language pathology, and other interventions that help children reach their potential.
ADVOCATE AND COLLABORATE: Join with The Children’s Agenda and other children’s advocates across New York State advocating in Albany for: a) Increased State funding to counties for child care subsidies by $31 million in order to restore the child care subsidy program to the funding level established in 2016; b) Directing a portion of Economic Development funding to child care, e.g., our local allocation of Upstate Revitalization Initiative (URI) dollars; c) Additional increases in State funding to stabilize the child care workforce and infrastructure, and to ensure equitable access to quality care; d) Expanding and adjusting the child and dependent care tax credit for maximum benefit for more families.
LEAD AND ALIGN: The County should provide more leadership in local collective impact initiatives such as ROC the Future and Rochester-Monroe AntiPoverty Initiative, to create more powerful systemic change to benefit children. Examples include an inter-municipal agreement for the annual State of Our Children address and the City of Rochester’s decision to organize its “Children and Families” budget section by ROC the Future goal areas.
Child care:  Increase funding for child care subsidies by $31 million in order to restore the child care subsidy program to the funding level established in 2016, adjusting for both the 2017 cut of $7 million and two years of inflation.
First 1000 Days on Medicaid:  Add $1.45 M to support the First 1000 Days on Medicaid initiative, investing in services and programs to improve outcomes among children ages 0 – 3.
Early Intervention:  Increase reimbursement rates for Early Intervention providers by 5%.  Reject the Governor’s proposal to require that providers take on more responsibility to appeal commercial insurance denials.  Support the Assembly’s proposal for a $25 M covered lives assessment on commercial insurance companies.
  • more experienced permanent staff in R-Centers who participate in quality professional development;
  • innovative and inclusive play spaces that can be accessed via routes that are safe due to traffic calming measures;
  • the expansion of programs like Raising a Reader that engages families to support early childhood and family literacy, and more.
Raise the Age:  Support the proposed $100 M for implementation of the new policy raising the age of criminal responsibility from 16 to 18 in New York State. The state must follow through on its commitment to reimburse localities, including New York City, for all expenses related to Raise the Age implementation.

As a nation, a state, and a community, our public policy is failing. 90% of spending focused after age five, after 90% of brain development has already occurred.

Place children and families at the center of the City’s Comprehensive Plan Update. We commend the City for creating the Office of Planning and for extending the community engagement period for gathering input on the Comprehensive Plan. The Plan Update process provides an opportunity to create action steps toward a future in which Rochester is a “Ready Community” as envisioned by ROC the Future, where children are born healthy into safe homes and neighborhoods, with high quality educational programs, ample access to nutritious food and safe play spaces, and opportunities to grow into their potential.
Strengthen Rochester’s early childhood sector and address shortages in child-related fields through three efforts: a) Via the City’s OWN program, support the creation of child care cooperatives to reduce back-office costs and/or facilitate quality improvements in child care businesses; b) Create a waiver specifically for child care providers so they are exempted from the City’s prohibition on home-based businesses’ participation in small business loan programs; and c) Ensure that businesses providing early childhood services, including individual for-profit providers of child care and early childhood developmental services, are eligible for the Office of Community Wealth-Building initiatives.
Use initiatives such as Quality of Life teams and the Office of Community Wealth-Building to identify innovative uses of City programs and authority to support the diversity of needs among children and youth: 
  • Explore how the City can further increase access to affordable, safe housing for Rochester families, particularly for the 74% of children (including the 87% of female headed households) with children who live in rental units. Consider how the Rochester Housing Authority can increase access to affordable housing as a measure to promote students’ academic success. For example, Tacoma, WA has had success reducing school instability and improving academic achievement through provision of targeted rental assistance.
  • Open up small business loans to home-based child care providers who are struggling to stay afloat, and who care for a large number of infants, toddlers and preschoolers in Rochester.
  • Replicate the new “Quality of Life” teams of Commissioners and high-level staff that will be addressing issues regarding nuisance locations to similarly address how best to deploy City resources to remove challenges facing our young people.
Increase investments in City staff that pay off for children and youth. Too many City workers who interact regularly with young people are in part-time positions with low wages and limited professional development. Yet research shows that it is these relationships that have the most potential to positively impact a child’s life. The City should redirect resources to upgrade these positions and provide up-to-date training in youth development principles, trauma-informed care, and other relevant topics.
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