Today's Buffalo News publishes a response from me, critical of the board and superintendent. I also posted a lengthier critique on The Chalkboard (here).
Buffalo has this bad habit of scapegoating charter schools for its financial problems, even though the state and federal governments pay for nearly everything -- well more than 80 percent of its budget comes from every other taxpayer rather than locally financed. Meanwhile, the school boards over the years have doled out generous contracts to its cantankerous unions to the point of paying all their retiree medical benefits and other "legacy" costs.
Charter schools are one of the few educational positives in Buffalo, but district leadership void of creativity and boldness inevitably falls back on attacking them as easy savings if they would only wither away. I can understand the teacher unions not liking charters, as it is competition to them for public money. But boards and superintendents should have a wider lens and focus on children -- all children, and what is best for them. Charters should continue to play a role for what is best for district children.
Buffalo Leaders Out of Step with Reformers
Charter schools are supported by President Obama and his Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, and are viewed as necessary to reform education and are a key component of their "Race to the Top" competition for states to earn discretionary funding. The last three governors of New York have been pro-charter. The last two chancellors of the Regents, including Tonowanda's own Robert Bennett, are pro-charter; and a third Chancellor, Carl Hayden, has taken a pro-charter stance in his current capacity as Chairman of the SUNY Board of Trustees. The Mayor of the nation's largest city, Michael Bloomberg of New York, is pro-charter. He also is faced with fiscal challenges but he's not seeking to stop charters; rather, Mayor Bloomberg is urging state to raise the charter cap so he can have one hundred more in the next four years.
In contrast to all of this, a majority of Buffalo's school board and Superintendent Williams are moving backward, seeking the same old excuses to deal with their education and financial problems. Their moratorium request accomplishes nothing for the district: it helps no child and it saves no money. It's merely symbolic -- and pathetic.
for The Chalkboard
Disclaimer: The Chalkboard is hosted by the New York Charter Schools Association (NYCSA) as a place where members, public education advocates and others can view and respond to informed commentary on timely public education and charter school issues. The views expressed here are not necessarily the official views of the NYCSA, its board, or of any of its individual charter school members. Anyone who claims otherwise is violating the spirit and purpose of this blog. To comment on anything you read here, or to offer tips, advice, comments, or complaints. please contact TheChalkboard.