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The Children's Agenda analyzing RCSD budget

(WHAM photo)

Rochester, N.Y. - The Children's Agenda is analyzing the Rochester City School District $119 million budget to ensure it's meeting the needs of students.

For the first time, the organization is digging into the district's spending plan to see where the money is going and how the district could do better.

"The reason that we did this is to make sure parents had more information," said Eamonn Scanlon, an education policy analyst at The Children’s Agenda. "Oftentimes, when parents do want more money for programs from the district, they simply don't have the knowledge or information to advocate. We want to create that base for parents, and they can push for solutions."

"I believe we should have a voice on where the money goes," said Lydia Rodriguez, a grandmother of a second grade student at a city school. “We need to be informed where this money is going."

The Children's Agenda outlined three major revenue drivers: Student transportation, special education and English Language Learners, where the graduation rate is 20 percent.

"We realize that bilingualism is going to be one of the key issues for this coming year in terms of our budget planning," said Carlos Garcia of the RCSD.

"There may need to be an ask for more funding for this type of programming," he added. "The fact of the matter is, we didn't plan for a hurricane."

A total of 584 children that have been displaced from Puerto Rico by Hurricane Maria are attending Rochester schools. A temporary school has opened up at the Hart Street Building.

"We need social workers. I mean, these kids have been through trauma," Rodriquez, who grew up in Puerto Rico as a child, said. "They have lost everything. They need all kinds of services. Imagine you're in France, you can't speak the language, and you're going to school and you have no resources to help. How are you going to thrive?"

The district has a total of 123 bilingual teachers and is actively seeking and recruiting more. Children from Puerto Rico are continually migrating to Rochester each week. Garcia said the district is preparing for a total of 1,000 students by the fall.

"We still need qualified, certified bilingual teachers," he said. "We are looking for anyone, and everyone that maybe interested.”

The Children's Agenda is hoping parents will work with them in drafting recommendations to send to the district by the end of March on what programs district dollars should be spent on the most.

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