Three busloads of people headed from Rochester to Albany on Tuesday to demand an increase in education funding.
Rochester City School student Maya Adams led a chant,“Whose money! Our Money! Our Schools! Our Schools!” from the well of the state Capitol. She’s part of a group including students, teachers, and Rochester residents hoping to prevent further layoffs in the district. The district laid off about 100 teachers mid-year because of an estimated $65 million budget shortfall.
Randi Weingarten, President of the American Association of Teachers, spoke at the rally and said it’s the state’s duty to help.
“We need to make sure that a place like Rochester is not abandoned,” said Weingarten. “If the market abandons it, the public good must come in to save it for the families that want to live there and want to thrive there.”
School officials including Superintendent Terry Dade and Board of Education Commissioners Natalie Sheppard, Ricardo Adams and Amy Maloy were also at the Capitol, meeting with lawmakers, and the state education department in hopes of closing the gap. To do that, Dade said more cuts and at least $20 million in state aid is needed right now, but that comes as the state grapples with a $6 billion deficit of its own.
School board member Amy Maloy thinks increasing school funding is possible even when money is tight.
“I think that they money can be found if we make it our priority,” Maloy said. “And education for too long has not been our priority in New York state and we need to start making it a priority.”
Organizations like the Alliance for Quality Education and Citizen Action of New York say the state owes an additional $3.8 billion to public schools. Maloy’s said the impact of not having the funds is wide ranging.
“That’s millions and millions of dollars a year in programs that can’t be provided for students so it's not just the city school district, but all districts across the state are being underfunded,” Maloy said.
Rochester Teachers Association President Adam Urbanski agrees that the district needs more aid and warns of more layoffs and disruptions if they don’t get it, but he’s seeking something more.
Urbanski said he’s working with New York State United Teachers to get closer state oversight of the district’s finances and it’s curriculum; he said this was discussed in a meeting with state officials and Superintendent Dade on Tuesday.
A state appointed monitor could veto decisions made by the Board of Education or the superintendent but Urbanski said the responsibilities would be based on how the law that establishes the position is written.
“I think that the superintendent is not opposed to something like that,” said Urbanski. “We have not had a direct conversation about it yet but I expect that we might as the legislation is ready to be circulated.”