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Another Voice: We must stop the attacks on Buffalo Public Schools

By Joe Cantafio

The quality of schools and instruction in Buffalo Public Schools has gotten much better over the past few years. More students are enrolling in the district. More people are moving into the City of Buffalo to take advantage of these improving schools.

Say Yes scholarships are on the rise for BPS graduates. The good news continues to outweigh the bad news and – as we saw in last May’s School Board election in which the “blow up the district” majority was voted out – the voting public supports the direction of the district.

Unfortunately, Sam Radford and the District Parent Coordinating Council (DPCC) are shills for corporate education reform profiteers like Carl Paladino and Betsy DeVos. Radford and the DPCC continue to line up with for-profit charter school corporations and associations. As evidence of this, they have installed Duncan Elliott Kirkwood, regional manager for Northeast Charter Schools Network, on the DPCC Executive Board. It is no surprise to public school advocates and supporters that DPCC leadership wants to blow up the Buffalo School District in favor of for-profit charter schools. It’s all about the money, not the students!

This is the DeVos model of “reforming” education, which we are seeing in other communities run over by charter schools, such as New Orleans and Detroit.

The school choice political attack on our public schools was on full display in the Senate hearings for DeVos’ nomination as secretary of education. Anyone watching her hearing saw an incredibly ignorant nominee who believes her wealth qualifies her for the job and substantiates her contempt for public schools. As a policy, she wants to destroy public schools in favor of vouchers for private schools and more unaccountable and low-quality charter schools, both of which siphon much-needed resources from public schools and only line the pockets of private schools and the investors in for-profit charter schools.

The Erie County Council of Teacher Union Presidents stands with the vast majority of parents and the Buffalo community for the removal of Paladino from the Board of Education and in support of the elected Board of Education, as a whole, and the work of Superintendent Kriner Cash and his team.

The DPCC’s recent call for a complete receivership takeover of the schools is a cynical attempt to undermine the student-centered board and Cash’s positive efforts and to take control of our schools out of the hands of parents and the community.

We remain opposed to any unproven federal, state or mayoral takeover and in support of local and public control of Buffalo Public Schools. In continued partnership with other stakeholders, we are prepared to do all we can to continue advancing Cash’s New Education Bargain to advance public education in Buffalo.

Joe Cantafio is president of the Erie County Council of Teacher Union Presidents and a board member of the National Education Association for New York State.

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