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Gantt proposes state takeover of Rochester city schools


State Assembly member David Gantt has drafted legislation that would allow the state to take over the Rochester City School District. Gantt’s bill adds clarity to what the management of the district would look like after a state takeover.

Gantt's legislation comes after Mayor Lovely Warren proposed a referendum on a state takeover of the district earlier this month. In a split decision, City Council voted to put that referendum on the ballot in the November general election. Warren’s referendum is non-binding, since only the state legislature can remove an elected school board. Gantt’s legislation could make a takeover happen, although it's certain to be opposed by local education activists, the school board, and the teacher's union.

This year's legislative session ended on June 19, so Gantt's bill won't be considered until the next session, which begins in January 2020. However, if voters approve the referendum in November, his bill would be ready for discussion.

Gantt's bill requires that the elected Board of Education be replaced with a five-member "children's education excellence task force" of Rochester residents appointed by the New York State Board of Regents. One board member would have to be a parent of a current student. The appointments would last up to five years, at which time the district's governance would return to that of an elected school board.

In a statement issued today, Gantt said, “Through this bill, state leadership will empower parents to work with educational experts to expand community schools, enhance bilingual education and increase support for science, technology, arts and sports.”

The legislation requires that the district lean heavily on former state-appointed Distinguished Educator Jaime Aquino’s report. That report gave 84 recommendations to reset the way the district operates.

And it authorizes the State Education Commissioner and the Board of Regents to "establish an extensive improvement plan" for the district "with help from the task force."