City sends letters to voters regarding possible state takeover of RCSD

Education

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Election day is just a little more than three months away, and that’s when voters will have a say on if the state will take over the Rochester City School District.

Mayor Lovely Warren sent a letter to city voters about the possibility of a takeover. She calls it an educational letter, but some are claiming she is trying to influence voters.

A city spokesperson told News 8 WROC that the letters were paid for by the city. Roughly 30,000 of them were sent out and the city spent $10,000 on the letter — with two-thirds of the cost being postage.

In the letter, Mayor Warren explained why she belives a state takeover is necessary, saying in part:

“Temporary state leadership would all us to reset the school system with the help of local and national educational experts.”

However, RCSD School Board President Van White says the letter calls for people to give up their right to vote. He says the school’s problems won’t be fixed by pointing fingers.

“I think her mantra is our students, our future,” White said. “Well that’s right, these are Rochester students, Rochester students. These aren’t Albany’s children and Albany’s families.

“We certainly understand and invite and encourage the role of Albany, but if we’re going to turn our schools around, turn this city around, we’ve got to do it as a collective. There’s not one person that’s going to sit in the boat and row it,” White said.

City of Rochester officials released a statement regarding the letters:

The letter was sent to educate residents regarding the referendum regarding city schools, which we are allowed to do under state law.”

Corporation Counsel Tim Curtin also said this about the legality of the letter:

This is governed by Article VIII, Section 1 of the NYS Constitution, which governs local finances. Nothing in this law prohibits the use of City funds for educational/informational purposes.

Case law and Attorney General Opinions are clear that a municipality may use public funds to educate and inform the public.  The NY Public Officers Law and the Rochester City Code are consistent with the State Constitution.

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