Sen. Rob Rolison (District 39), the ranking member of the NYS Senate Standing Committee on Cities II, recently invited Dr. Eric Jay Rosser, superintendent of schools to provide testimony at the December Committee on Cities 2 public hearing. Rosser spoke on the causes and effects of poverty and concentrated poverty in New York’s medium and small-sized cities, and policies the legislature can implement to reduce poverty.
In his opening remarks, Senator Rolison shared “As elected officials we have an obligation to seek out what’s best for all New Yorkers, taking into account the creative initiatives that are being developed at the local level.”
In upstate cities, poverty, and concentrated poverty rates have been stubbornly high for years. In 2022, Syracuse, Rochester, and Buffalo all ranked in the top 10 nationwide for childhood poverty rates for cities with at least 100,000 people. A recently released report cites Syracuse as ranking the 2nd highest for childhood poverty in the country for 2023. Data obtained from City-Data.com cites that in 2021 32.2 percent of Poughkeepsie’s children live below poverty.
Concentrated poverty is considered an area with poverty rates of 30 percent or higher and has been widely researched and studied. Neighborhoods with a high level of poverty see a dramatic decrease in several success factors, from economic development to school outcomes to health and quality of life. The causes for this type of poverty include the historical legacy of redlining, economic decline from deindustrialization, and exclusionary zoning in wealthy areas.
Rosser’s written testimony spoke to the plight of children in impoverished communities noting, “Children in impoverished communities enter school with fewer academic skills than peers growing up in other communities. These children tend to be at least one grade level behind their peers in other communities. These disparities translate into lower academic achievement, childhood mental health challenges, and alarming high school graduation rates, which are predictors of low economic mobility and a lack of financial stability in adulthood and are a precursor to intergenerational poverty (poverty that exists through multiple generations due to children not having an opportunity to escape the poor economic conditions that they grew up in).”
Rosser’s testimony references the Poughkeepsie Children’s Cabinet (PCC), as an innovative approach to addressing childhood poverty and refers to the importance of a school, home, and community approach to addressing children’s academic social and emotional needs – prenatal to college/career.
Rolison, hailing the Children’s Cabinet approach, further stated, “The Children’s Cabinet has had success but there is much more to do to fight entrenched poverty in Poughkeepsie and other small and medium-size cities across our state. Rolison also points out that although the Poughkeepsie Children’s Cabinet has caught the attention of the Lt. Governor, State Board of Regents, the US Department of Education, and the White House, “Dr. Rosser correctly points out that what we need is sustained funding support from Albany so that our localities are not bearing the burden alone.” He further states, “Smaller cities and school districts may not have the resources to promote those initiatives that work without state support. We have to get the particulars right and we have to constantly assess what we are doing and the performance [of these initiatives].”
Rosser ended his comments with an offer to help the committee.
“As the Senate’s Standing Committee on Cities 2 continues to explore the causes and effects of poverty and concentrated poverty, I offer to provide myself and the Poughkeepsie Children’s Cabinet as a resource to learn more about our local efforts.”