More than 200 staff members – including more than 150 teachers – were laid off last month as part of the Rochester City School District’s massive mid-year budget cuts.
The district is perpetually starved for resources, with students – who are disproportionately Black and Brown – left to pay the price.
Last week, a group of RCSD students gathered to deliver a “State of the Students” address following Gov. Cuomo’s “State of the State” speech earlier this month.
Then they traveled to Albany to demand that the state step up and provide much-needed funding in this year’s budget.
Below is a list of 15 of the demands included in the State of the Students address. The address was written by RCSD students Simone Hardaway, Tatiyana Spencer, Tali Beckwith-Cohen, Sarah Adams, and Madison Smith.
On the budget cuts, the district, and the administration
1. We have a right to never have to face mid-year teacher cuts ever again. These cuts destroy classroom environments, ruin kids' love for learning and as you see, completely disrupt our education.
2. We have a right to have greater representation in the decision making for our district. We want opportunities to use our voices and we want a vote on each and every proposal.
On better resources and course options
3. We have a right to adequate materials and resources. We should have access to calculators, and books free from graffiti and missing pages.
4. We have a right to more variety and choices in our schedule. We want a say in our schedule that allows us to take classes that speak to us and are geared towards our specific interests, including more language classes, advanced classes, art classes, and career readiness classes.
5. We have a right to a curriculum that reflects the student body. We are tired of a narrative that leaves minorities out of history and glorifies the progress of white men that is rooted in oppression. We want a curriculum that highlights the contributions and achievements of more than the same five historical people of color.
6. We have a right to better food. We deserve healthy food with options for everyone. We need nutritious meals because some of us rely only on the food we get from school.
On police in schools and the criminalization of students
7. We have a right to better physical learning environments. We shouldn't have to walk through metal detectors to get to our classroom. We shouldn't have to use facilities that are missing locks and doors.
8. We have a right to not feel criminalized walking into school. We need school resource officers out of schools because they do the opposite of making us feel safe. There are no police in suburban schools, so why are they in ours?
9. We have a right to educators who stop relying on police and other forms of discipline and focus on restorative practices.
On dress codes
10. We have a right to the end of anti-Black dress codes that harm Black and Brown students.
11. We have a right to the end of sexist dress codes that perpetuate rape culture and victim-blaming.
On teachers and staff
12. We have a right to counselors and teachers that understand the population that they serve. It is the district's job to make this happen. We demand mandatory anti-racism and LGBTQI training. We want more staff that have lived the same lives as us.
13. We have a right to a more diverse population of educators. We want to see teachers and staff that represent us and can be role models for us.
14. We have a right to teachers who are willing to listen to their students and take feedback on how they can better reach their students.
15. We have a right to educators that focus less on punitive measures and believe the best in us. We want teachers that treat us with the same respect they expect from us.