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AS SCHOOL BOARD BICKERS, CHILDREN SCRAMBLE

Your article on the enrollment surge of Buffalo public schools in the Nov. 19 edition and your editorial the following day suggests that the birth rate and closing of parochial schools have increased the public school rolls to the point where there is barely room for the students to sit in classrooms.

It is true that there is overcrowding. It is also true that Buffalo needs new school buildings. However, it does not appear to me to be for the reasons stated in your article.

Many of the elementary school buildings have been converted into Early Childhood Centers in the last few years. These ECCs cater to children as young as 3 years old. The mandatory age to begin public school education in New York State is age 6. Therefore, these young children, practically babies, are being squeezed into a school system that apparently was not designed to handle them in the first place. One may as well call ECCs state-funded day-care centers.

The prekindergarten programs in many schools last only three hours per day, and most of the children are bused back and forth. A parent couldn't even hold a part-time job in that short period of time while the child is away from home. Some of these children are still wetting their pants.

So where is the benefit to the average taxpayer who is financing these programs? Where is the benefit to the parents who must schedule their entire day around their child's brief trip to school? Where is the benefit to all the children who are left on the waiting lists and are denied equal access to the public education institutions? Most of all, where is the benefit to the older school children who would otherwise be utilizing that space?

What in the world ever happened to giving the children who are required to be in school a basic education? Money is being spent in the Buffalo public schools for enrichment programs that may receive international recognition. However, they exclude the vast majority of the student population. Buffalo has achieved excellence in a few magnet schools while many neighborhood schools are far below that level.

While we would all prefer that our children receive the very best education possible, we must maturely recognize the need for priorities in educating all the students who are at and above the state mandatory school age with equal resources and facilities. While the bickering about money continues in the board rooms, the school children are scrambling to find seats in classrooms. Our children need a good, solid education on which to build a promising future.

LINDA A. WASHINGTON Buffalo

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