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Rochester school employees rally against layoffs among essential workers

Photo credit: AFSCME Council 66
By Amorette Miller, AFSCME Council 66 ·

ROCHESTER, N.Y. – After weeks of fighting for their essential jobs, hundreds of BENTE/AFSCME Local 2419 (Council 66) members held a press conference and staged a rally urging the Rochester City School District (RCSD) Board of Education and superintendent to vote “no” on proposed cuts that would result in over 200 layoffs.

RCSD Superintendent Lesli Myers-Small recently reversed the district’s decision to follow a hybrid model of reopening, instead opting to implement all-remote instruction for the first 10 weeks of the school year.

In July, the district had submitted a plan for reopening to the state and committed to join the area’s suburban districts in offering a hybrid instruction model to the more than 25,000 students that the district serves. The RCSD, which receives 70% of its funding from the state of New York, cited the financial strain of the pandemic and a lack of federal stimulus funding as the reason for the proposed cuts.

The union has continued to provide essential services and support to the community during the pandemic by ensuring that elementary schools and cafeterias remain open for remote learning, delivering hot meals to students’ doorsteps five days a week and expanding outreach efforts to RCSD students through phone calls and home visits.

Earlier this month, BENTE/AFSCME Local 2419 submitted a plan titled “Essential Then, Essential Now” to the superintendent and the board of education. The plan outlined the essential roles support staff workers play and called on the district to use school buildings as learning hubs instead of city recreations centers, as previously proposed by the RCSD. The proposal also illustrated cost savings to the RCSD through unfilled vacancies and the elimination of overtime and substitute costs.

Cuts to the RCSD workforce would not only threaten support staff members, but also the students who rely on their services. This shows how dire the need for emergency state and local funding from Congress is to alleviate the effects of the pandemic on budgets while still maintaining essential services to communities.

Without the services that members of BENTE/AFSCME Local 2419 and AFSCME members across the nation provide to our schools and communities, many students and families will suffer.

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