What do Councilman Mickey Kearns, businessman Carl Paladino, and State Education Commissioner David Steiner have in common?
They're all talking about state oversight of the Buffalo Public Schools.
In a recent meeting with The Buffalo News' editorial board, Steiner volunteered that the Board of Regents is considering a proposal that would that would allow the state to intervene in a district "that is almost beyond repair."
"The idea would be to appoint a three-person board that would in a sense be like a receivership model, Steiner said. The Board of Regents talked about this last year, he said, but failed to get support in the state Legislature to make it happen.
"I'm sure it will come back to the board and they will think about the best plan to advance to the Legislature (this year)," he said.
Steiner took a pass when asked if he thought Buffalo was one of those districts in need of state oversight -- a district, as he described it, "where a particular school board is clearly failing its kids." But when he described the reasoning for why such state oversight might be needed in a district, it was hard to miss the reference to just a few months ago, when Buffalo Superintendent James A. Williams nearly walked away from $42 million in federal funds because he did not want to move three principals from failing schools.
In talking about the need for state oversight in some districts, Steiner said:
"The issue here is that we really don't want cities, towns to leave federal money on the table when these schools so desperately need to improve. School Improvement Grants are up to $2 million a year for three years; $6 million for a single school is a lot of money. It would be a tragedy, it seems to me, if the districts where there are designated (failing) schools can't get together and use those funds for this purpose."
Earlier this month, Paladino lashed out at the board for its inability to get anything done and called for them to either resign or be subject to -- you guessed it -- state takeover.
He called for "a special master" to be appointed by the state until the Legislature acted to replace the board with individuals who meet "minimum standards."
A few days later, in a Common Council committee meeting, Kearns questioned why we have a Board of Education in Buffalo. The city schools are in such dire shape, he suggested, that model doesn't seem to be too effective.
"Maybe we need to bring someone in for oversight. Maybe we need to bring in something like a control board for the Buffalo Public Schools," he said.
- Mary Pasciak