RCSD budget provides more funding for special education

May 16, 2018 06:45 AM

The Rochester City School Board of Education last night passed a nearly one billion dollar budget for next school year. It included more money for special education.

The death of Rochester teen, Trevyan Rowe and a report by the state comptroller - showed disturbing deficiencies in the city school district's handling of students with special needs.

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So will more money mean better outcomes for students?

The school district says it is spending 88 percent more in the area of special education alone. But Lawana Jones has a wait and see attitude.

The founder of the  Autism Council of Rochester says she has often been disappointed by the district's lack of follow-through.

"They've got to have an open channel to get feedback from parents, especially special education parents," Jones says. "Second thing, they've got to get some teachers and administrators hired, ones that are licensed and credentialed in special education, they have to come with that experience, they have to be culturally competent in learning and teaching."

A comptroller's report earlier this year showed the district is coming up short in meeting the needs of students with special and mental health needs, particularly among students of color. 

The budget includes 39.5 new special education positions and more reading intervention teachers, behavioral specialists, and teachers for English language learners. But we asked school board commissioner Melanie Funchess what will be different.

"What we're doing now is we're taking a transformational look.," Funchess says. "We're taking it apart, piece by piece, part by part and bringing in parents, students, advocates, people with deep level content knowledge to really look to create a precisional fit between where our needs are and where are resources it's not just the what we're doing...but how we're doing it."

Funchess says students and parents will begin to see changes as early as next school year.


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