Strengthen the schools
The greatest impediment to the revitalization of Buffalo lies in its currently inferior schools. I believe this is the biggest cause of Buffalo's population decline and its inability to attract major industrial and commercial investment.
If the school system were truly on par with those of surrounding areas, then many energetic and enterprising families would desire to live in the city simply because they prefer the urban lifestyle. They would invest their lives in the city, and the city would prosper.
If people aren't confident that they are giving their children the best available education, they will move -- if they have the means -- to wherever they feel the education is better.
Three key elements are missing from the Buffalo Public School System:
1) A proper student-to-teacher ratio. This must be on the order of 20:1 or less in all classes.
2) Proper building facilities.
3) Necessary teaching materials.
For Western New York to survive, it must have a healthy core city. The public in Buffalo requires the same education as the public in the suburbs. Therefore, I believe the entire region should subsidize the city's school system for a period of 10 to 20 years in a reverse balloon rate, so that the three conditions listed above can be met within the first three to five years. Then we can maintain the schools while the city's health responds to this "medicine."
This would truly be a matter of rebuilding the city from the bottom up. Sports arenas, waterfront renovation and especially gambling casinos are all just window dressing if people don't have a high-quality life in their community. And the truth is, most people feel they don't have a high-quality life if their children aren't attending good schools.
I believe that Mayor Masiello and Superintendent James Harris are capable of leading this kind of dramatic change. I suggest that the school budget be separated from the city budget to eliminate any question as to where money comes from or goes. Although I don't believe regional government is necessary, regional cooperation is if we are to accomplish the next stages of progress that our area requires.
Robert A. Sowyrda East Aurora