Budget Adds Classroom Time, Teachers To Boost Student Achievement

March 25, 2013  

 
BUDGET ADDS CLASSROOM TIME, TEACHERS TO BOOST STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT
All Students Will Get More Instruction, With Expanded Days in Up to 10 Schools;
Changes in Non-Classroom Services Will Also Fund More Than 70 New Sports Teams
 
Rochester students will get more instruction time to learn more rigorous material, with more sports after school and an overall increase in arts, music, and physical education, under the draft $728 million budget for the 2013-14 school year announced today by Superintendent Bolgen Vargas, Ed.D.

 

The budget keeps spending flat compared to the current school year, and projects K-12 enrollment of 28,618, a decline of nearly 1,000 students. It closes a $50.2 million gap projected last December, while funding the District’s priorities for improving student achievement. These include getting more students to read at grade level by third grade, and implementing the Common Core curriculum District-wide next year. Adopted by 45 states, the Common Core requires students to meet consistent academic standards at all grade levels that require deeper knowledge and application of skills in core subjects.

 

“Our children are ready to meet high expectations, but we must give them the extra instructional time and support they need,” Dr. Vargas said. “We built this budget by funding the classroom requirements for a rigorous, well-rounded education first, then finding efficiencies elsewhere to close our budget gap.”

 

As an example, Dr. Vargas said that the budget funds 14 more classroom teachers, including 10 new reading teachers. The average class size for kindergarten to third grade is expected to be 22 students or less. Budgeted programs and services that will increase in the next school year include:
 
  • Maximizing instructional time. The District is implementing new schedules for each grade level each year that give elementary students 280 minutes each day of instruction in English, math, science, and social studies. Based on a sample of six current elementary schedules, instruction in these core areas will increase 43 minutes a day, or the equivalent of more than 18 days each year. The schedules also give schools flexibility to have morning meetings and allow extra time for art, music, physical education or technology courses compared to current schedules.
  • Expanded schedules in more schools.  Two secondary schools—All City High School and Northeast College Prep High School—offer expanded-day schedules now. Planning teams at eight elementary schools are redesigning their daily schedule and calendar to give students more time in school for instruction and extra support. The budget allocates funds to support implementation next year in most or all of them.
  • More sports. Athletic programs will expand by more than 20 percent, from the current 250 sports programs serving about 4,000 student athletes to a projected 325 programs with more than 5,100 participants.
  • More Advanced Placement opportunities. Dr. Vargas said that students in any District secondary school who desire and qualify for advanced placement courses will be able to take them, taught in school or online.
  • Parent liaisons in every school. The budget includes funds for eight additional parent liaisons in elementary schools, ensuring that every school has a staff member dedicated to engaging parents and addressing their concerns.

 

To fund these changes and close the projected gap, the budget assumes taking advantage of Gov. Cuomo’s “pension smoothing” proposal, which would save the District more than $17 million next year. Services will be delivered in new ways, such as in-school suspension—which will be offered in every school and staffed internally by teaching assistants, instead of teachers supported by an outside vendor.

 

Previously announced program closures and consolidations, including the phase-out of Edison Business School and closure of Gen. Elwell S. Otis School No. 30—with Flower City School No. 54 moving from leased space into the School 30 building at 36 Otis St.—will save millions of dollars. Administrative changes in special education and the District’s central office will also reduce costs.

 

If all of the recommended changes are approved, the total District staff would be 5,380 full-time equivalents, a reduction of 161 positions or 2.9 percent. The District’s normal annual attrition rate is about 300 employees per year, so layoffs are expected to be minimal. There are small increases in civil service and paraprofessional staff, with non-classroom teaching assignments reduced by 6 percent, or 190 positions—including 60 teachers who oversee in-school suspension programs, and 84 teachers on assignments outside the classroom. Dr. Vargas noted that more than 100 teaching positions are currently vacant, making it less likely that layoffs will be required.

 

Reflecting Public Input

The District hosted four events in January and February to obtain public input while the draft budget was being developed. These events generated comments and suggestions from more than 200 people, with four common themes.
 
  • Student achievement should be the District’s first priority
  • Support for neighborhood schools is strong
  • The District needs to improve customer service and accountability
  • There are many ways to improve efficiency without taking resources from the classroom

 

The Board of Education has scheduled six public sessions to review the budget, including a community conversation on Tuesday (March 26) and public hearings on April 2 and April 9. The budget must be adopted by City Council after it is approved by the Board of Education, which is expected to happen in June.

 

“This budget supports our urgent need to boost student achievement while providing stability for our staff and families,” Dr. Vargas said. “It is not possible to close the budget gap without making difficult choices, but I believe the recommendations in this budget support educational priorities on which the Board of Education, the families we serve and our staff can all agree.”