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.

Our Recommendations

  • Position Code Summary – There should be a position summary by job code up front in the budget book. There is a wealth of information in the budget book but it is spread over too many departments and schools to provide parents a clear picture of what is changing.
  • Use Normal Accounting Practices – The favorable/unfavorable labeling should be replaced with negative and positive numbers.
  • Add Column for School-Based Position Changes – The current school budget format is very difficult to read and should be reimagined with a column for FTE changes.
  • Restore the 10 Teachers on Assignment The Roc Restorative Team has been essential to implementing restorative practices districtwide and will continue to be a vital resource as new schools adopt restorative practices and others deepen their work. These 10 positions must be restored to the student support budget.
  • Restore Funding For Help Zones and Other Building Supports The reduction in grant revenue used to contract with outside agencies like the Gandhi Institute, Partners in Restorative Initiatives, and Center for Youth that provide building level support for school climate must be restored using general funds. Without this funding 5 help zones will close, and fewer supports will be in place for peer mediation and restorative practices.
  • Ban Suspensions for Grades K-2 Given what we know about the damaging effects of suspensions on academics, and how important it is for a child to be reading by 3rd grade, there should be a ban on suspensions for K-2 students. Suspensions are an ineffective discipline tool, academically damaging, and developmentally inappropriate for young children during a period of rapid brain development.
  • Limit Long-Term Suspensions to 20 Days Long-term suspensions should be limited to no more than 20 days. Long-term suspensions have a detrimental impact on students’ academics and that damage is avoidable through fewer and shorter suspensions. Strict limits should be placed on long-term suspensions starting with a cap of 20 days.
  • Approve Robust Data Sharing Agreement and Quarterly Public Data Reports The Roc3D Dashboard launched by RCSD this school year is a commendable step towards transparency.  However, extensive quarterly reports should still be made public and discussed by the Board of Education and district leadership team. In addition, a robust data sharing agreement should be made with the Community Task Force on Positive School Climate, so that outside experts are able to dive deeper into the data and partner with the district leadership team on strategies for improvement.
  • Adopt the School Climate Advisory Committee Recommendations This report highlights a few key recommendations based on data from RCSD and interviews with members of the school community. This is not an exhaustive list. Members of the School Climate Advisory Committee have already developed an extensive list of recommendations that should be faithfully adopted.
  •  Train All Staff on the Code of Conduct The new code of conduct has a clearly defined discipline matrix. The matrix addresses a common concern among parents and staff that discipline is administered inconsistently. Training all staff on the new code of conduct and faithfully implementing the matrix will create consistency and provide detailed guidelines for handling common situations. Also, using the discipline matrix will reduce racial disparities in suspensions and promote alternatives to exclusionary discipline.
  • Adequate Staffing For Centralizing CSE – There should be at least 28 central staff (teachers and administrators) for the new central committee on special education (CSE) team. It is important this team is large enough to conduct all necessary meetings and evaluations, and have staff to provided embedded professional development in buildings.
  • Designate Assistant Principals who Handle Discipline – The assistant principal (AP) designated to chair annual reviews should also be the AP who handles discipline in their building. When these roles are combined it will reduce suspensions for students with disabilities as the AP will have a clearer understanding of what behaviors are a manifestation of a child’s disability.
  • Consistent Mandatory Professional DevelopmentIssues with compliance, student placements, and the quality of instruction are all impacted by a lack of consistent professional development. Every staff person interacting with students with IEPs should have the proper training to support those students, and to understand a tiered system of intervention and supports.
  • Align Continuum of Special Education ServicesPrograms and services that best meet students’ needs should be consistently available across school buildings. Every program or building change for a student with disabilities is disruptive to the learning process. To align different programs for so many students across such a large school district is very complicated.  This requires a comprehensive multi-year plan with parent and community input. While all programs cannot be available in every building, there should be a good faith effort to make program availability more predictable and consistent.
  • Consistent Mandatory Professional DevelopmentIssues with compliance, student placements, and the quality of instruction are all impacted by a lack of consistent professional development. Every staff person interacting with students with IEPs should have the proper training to support those students, and to understand a tiered system of intervention and supports.
  • Align Continuum of Special Education ServicesPrograms and services that best meet students’ needs should be consistently available across school buildings. Every program or building change for a student with disabilities is disruptive to the learning process. To align different programs for so many students across such a large school district is very complicated.  This requires a comprehensive multi-year plan with parent and community input. While all programs cannot be available in every building, there should be a good faith effort to make program availability more predictable and consistent.
  • Permanent Location for Bilingual Language and Literacy Academy The Bilingual Language and Literacy Academy needs a permanent home. The current lease at 30 Hart Street is for 3 more years. The program will be more stable and offer more academic and enrichment opportunities for its students if it is housed in a permanent school building that shares space with other students. Housing the Bilingual Language and Literacy Academy at another school will also allow for staffing efficiencies.
  • Strategic Plan for English Language Learner Achievement and Alignment – The significant and authentic needs of Latina/o’s and other English Language Leaners make it imperative that we have an aligned plan in Latina/o studies, English for Speakers of Other Languages and Bilingual Education. A strategic plan to add structure and direction for each across the district should be created.
  • Path to Certification for Uncertified Bilingual Staff – There are many bilingual professionals serving as long-term substitutes in RCSD. Teachers that are working per diem are paid at a much lower rate, lack stability, and do not have access to certified employee benefits. Many of these bilingual professionals will leave for better jobs without a sustainable financial commitment from RCSD and an affordable path to certification.
  • Evaluate Effectiveness of Moving Preschool Special Education into Specialized Services – While shifting PSE out of the Early Childhood Office may seem to be the best option given the critical shortage of providers, the impact of this move should be closely evaluated throughout the 2019-20 school year. Preschool Special Education differs from School-Age Special Education in a number of important ways, including: PSE works closely with the County Department of Health, it manages children transitioning from the Early Intervention program, and it relies heavily on community-based organizations to both identify children in need of services and to deliver those special educational services. If it has a detrimental impact on students and families, another model should be considered for 2020-21.
  • Professional Development for Specialized Services Staff in Preschool Education- This professional development should aim to ensure these staff properly understand the early childhood system and are able to create developmentally appropriate IEPs.   Specialized Services staff who are new to Pre-K should be provided with training on the EPK and UPK curricula to help create the least restrictive, highly integrated experience for the child.
  • Consider Creative Approaches for Developmental Services – Even with the County’s proposed 15% increase in reimbursement rates for PSE services, young children with developmental delays or disabilities will likely continue to wait for needed therapies and instruction.  The delays are due to a shortage of providers, who are leaving the PSE field in order to take higher-paying positions in K-12 education and health care settings. These delays can result in increased demand for much more costly K-12 special education placements later in a child’s life.  The Children’s Agenda recommends:
    • the District should continue to join with local elected officials, parents and advocates in pressuring state lawmakers and SED continue to increase reimbursement rates; and
    • the District should seriously consider other models such as becoming a PSE provider and hiring qualified professionals to deliver the services directly.
  • Improve Pre-K to Kindergarten Transition – Despite high quality Pre-K programs, RCSD early elementary students too often fall behind, struggling to learn to read by 3rd grade.  One cause of this dynamic is that the transition from Pre-K to K can be challenging for a young child.  To address this, 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.

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

Rochester's Own Frederick Douglas

EARLY INTERVENTION CRISIS: Hire or contract for at least 6 Service Coordinator positions to the County EI program.
    • Monroe County must immediately hire at least 6 new Service Coordinators, or contract with Community agencies to do the same. Doing so will bring the County’s Department of Public Health closer to the sustained staffing it needs to sufficiently address families’ needs.
    • We applaud County Executive Dinolfo’s commitment to make EI the highest priority for County advocacy at the state level in 2019. We will join her. Specifically, New York State must:
o Significantly raise reimbursement rates for Early Intervention and Preschool Special Education Services. o Increase reimbursement from private health insurance companies by changing state law to prohibit them from denying coverage for EI services. o Establish funding and reimbursement rate equity between the Early Intervention and Preschool Special Education systems.
LOWER PARENT FEES FOR CHILD CARE SUBSIDIES: While we applaud additional resources directed to Income Eligible Day Care, there are eligible families who do not utilize subsidies because they can’t afford the high parent co-pays. Monroe County has the highest co-pay policy allowed – requiring families to contribute up to 35% of disposable income. To truly support employment, Monroe County should lower parent co-pay fees to 30% of disposable income and commit to lowering it further in the future.
LIMIT NEW PLACEMENTS: There is a projected 60% increase in family and residential placements from 2017 to 2019. Monroe County should strengthen its efforts to avoid out-of-home placements for foster care and for youth impacted by New York’s new Raise the Age law.
BRING CHILD PROTECTIVE SERVICES (CPS) CASELOAD RATIOS DOWN TO 12:1 IN 2019. While the new case aides will help reduce CPS workloads, better recruitment and retention efforts are needed to bring the County CPS workers’ caseloads down to the recommended 12:1 ratio.
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.
Scroll Up