Governor Paterson Submits Rochester School Governance Legislation

ALBANY, NY (06/09/2010)(readMedia)-- Governor David A. Paterson has sent to the Legislature Program Bill No. 282, which would establish a school governance model within the City of Rochester to foster increased transparency, greater parental participation and input, and enhanced accountability in the management and operation of the Rochester City School District. This legislation would grant the Mayor and the District Superintendent greater control over the management of the City School District, providing Rochester the tools it needs to offer first-rate educational opportunities to its students.

"The future of Rochester depends on its children, and the legislation I am proposing today will make them the first priority of the City's education system," Governor Paterson said. "The City of Rochester's current educational system is broken and failing school age students. This bill encourages greater parental involvement and seeks to improve college preparedness as well as graduation rates."

Rochester Mayor Robert J. Duffy said: "Governor Paterson has presented a bill to the Legislature that gives the citizens of Rochester an opportunity to fix an education system that that has been broken for thirty years and, at long last, put children first. If passed, this law would lay a foundation of change that will give our children, and all of Rochester, the future they deserve. I want to thank Governor Paterson for submitting this legislation and supporting a proposal that would end the status quo which is simply not working."

The "City of Rochester School District Governance Reform Act" would allow for a five-year trial period to provide needed transformation. This legislation would enable the Education Commission, in consultation with four Community Schools Advisory Councils, to develop policy changes that will put children first. The Mayor would appoint five non-paid members to the Education Commission, with City Council adding four, creating greater accountability and oversight than the current diffuse system that is spread out over seven elected School Board members. The Mayor, as the Chief executive of the City will be held accountable for producing results.

The Governor's Program Bill would:

• Increase safety measures for students and teachers;

• Create a city wide council on special education

• Create a city wide council on English language learners;

• Greatly increase opportunities for parental involvement;

• Create an independent Education Budget Office; and

• Increase accountability and accessibility to the entire educational system.

For decades, the Rochester City School District (RCSD) four-year graduation rates have hovered around 50 percent – reaching as low as 39 percent in 2007 and dropping to 46 percent this year, the second lowest of any district in the State. This means that one out of every two students will not receive a diploma. In addition, the RCSD dropout rate is 32 percent – a statistic that directly impacts public safety as nearly 70 percent of crime in the City of Rochester is committed by high school dropouts.

Too many students who do graduate are not well prepared for college. Of 346 city graduates who enrolled in Monroe Community College four years ago, less than nine percent received their degree or certificate in the standard two years. Half of the City's high schools are failing to meet basic standards established under the No Child Left Behind Act. In some Rochester schools, more than 80 percent of students are failing to attain the basic skills necessary to advance. It is clear by these numbers that Rochester City schools are not doing well.

The State and the City have continued to increase funds to address the education problem for decades without measurable success. The City of Rochester dedicates 73 percent of its property tax levy to the City School District. When combined with State and Federal aid, the District spends between $18,000 and $20,000 per student, each year. The City can no longer afford to continue to overburden its taxpayers to support a system that has failed its children. The City cannot saddle its taxpayers with more financial weight when the median household income is just $29,000 per year.

Currently, a school board is elected by the City of Rochester residents. This board controls the school district. This bill would provide for a shift in governance that would eliminate school boards and cede control of the district to the City government.

"This school governance issue has been studied for decades. The time for fundamental change is now. We cannot afford to lose another class of students due to our inaction," Governor Paterson added.

This bill would take effect immediately; with certain provisions taking effect July 1, 2011. The law would sunset and be deemed repealed June 30, 2016.


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