In recent months, Claire Labrosa, an English as a Second Language teacher in the district has taken on a new role: organizer.
Labrosa is a member of the steering committee of Rochester Organization of Rank & File Educators, also known as RORE. It's a group of city school teachers, paraprofessionals, and other staffers who say they can’t wait and react to whatever happens next.
“RORE is a more progressive, more action-oriented group of people who hope to push our union in a certain direction,” said Lebrosa.
“Our students are under attack,” Lebrosa continued. “Their schools are under attack. They are being underfunded, and they are being sabotaged by the city of Rochester and the state of New York. We haven’t seen the kind of action that we believe is necessary to fight back about that kind of systemic white supremacy.”
— x-James A. Brown (@jamesbrowntv) February 24, 2020
The district laid off about 150 staffers mid-year, and recently, Superintendent Terry Dade warned that 800 more layoffs could be coming. The district’s money problems come from a mix of financial mismanagement and structural budget problems, the state comptroller's office has found.
Lebrosa and RORE say the growing number of charter schools in Rochester and the lack of funding increases locally and statewide are also to blame. One of the group's demands is a complete moratorium on the expansion of charter schools.
“Essentially we’ve had this dual system,” Lebrosa said. “The kids who enroll in charter schools take their money with them. And that money is then paying for two buildings and two sets of curriculum, and it's siphoning money off from the district. ”
That’s why RORE is proposing a one-day walkout, strike or other type of demonstration next Friday. Lebrosa said if teachers are loud enough, they make change happen. Teacher strikes are illegal in New York, however, and teachers who participate could lose two days of pay for every day they strike.
Dade and Board of Education Commissioner Natalie Sheppard have expressed support for them, as long as their action doesn’t hurt students.
Longtime teachers union president Adam Urbanski said he welcomes dissent and would strike if the union voted for it. But in a recent blog post, he called RORE reckless, divisive and negligent.
Lebrosa said the group isn’t backing down but will work within all three district unions to plan their next move.