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Another Voice: Why the election for Buffalo School Board matters to everyone

By Dottie Gallagher-Cohen

If you care about the future of Buffalo, you should care about the results of next week’s Buffalo School Board elections.

There is perhaps no more pressing community need than dramatically improving educational outcomes for students in the Buffalo Public Schools. Currently, only about half of Buffalo students graduate from high school. Too often, those students who do graduate are not adequately prepared for college or career.

This sad reality is holding back far too many young people, and it is holding back our city, too.

This election will determine if the School Board can continue to move the district in a positive, productive direction under the welcome leadership of Superintendent Kriner Cash, or if special interests concerned primarily with self-preservation will regain their grip on the Buffalo Public Schools. This election will determine if generations of Buffalo children will have access to and receive a quality education. And this election will determine Buffalo’s future as a growing city where families choose to live and invest.

For decades, living in the City of Buffalo has been a non-starter for many families that cannot afford private school tuition. This unsettling trend has robbed Buffalo of young families that would otherwise populate its neighborhoods, help boost its economy and contribute to the fabric of the city.

Across our entire region, we are experiencing significant workforce challenges that hold back economic growth.

Local manufacturers are expected to have 17,000 job vacancies to fill by 2020. Buffalo Niagara employers struggle to find qualified candidates, forcing real decisions about business expansion and relocation.

These good-paying jobs that lead to satisfying and sustainable careers are sadly bypassing Buffalo’s young people who are deserving, but often unprepared because of their substandard high school education. Job growth occurs where there is great local talent, and significant job growth will continue to elude our community without improving the quality of Buffalo’s public education system.

The Buffalo Niagara Partnership strongly encourages Buffalo residents to vote Tuesday and support candidates committed to ongoing reform. Stopping the current progress under Cash would be profoundly unfair to Buffalo students.

It would also squander a real chance for Buffalo to become a city with a school system we can all take pride in – a school system that truly delivers for students and parents, a school system that attracts families to Buffalo, and a school system that helps produce the trained workforce we need to sustain a growing economy.

Dottie Gallagher-Cohen is president and CEO of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership.