It's hard to blame Buffalo's engaged parents from using whatever tools they have available to pressure the city school district to improve its performance. Buffalo students, especially minority students, have been ill-served by the district for decades and some parents have decided that enough is enough.
The problem is that while the tool that a parent group is eyeing -- transferring students out of struggling schools -- may be useful on a case-by-case basis, it will do little to fix these schools' endemic problems, one of which is poor attendance. Indeed, its main consequence would be to add a new level of stress to a system already riven by dysfunction.
Still, that is what the District Parent Coordinating Council is recommending to the parents of the 15,000 children who qualify for transfer under the authority of the federal No Child Left Behind law.
The council's president, Samuel L. Radford III, hopes that the threat of a mass exodus from underperforming schools will provide leverage and, in the end, help produce solutions to their problems.
It's possible that could be useful, of course, and parents have been left with few other mechanisms to forcefully express their dissatisfaction. School administration has improved, but not enough to make a difference, and the teachers union is so self-absorbed that it doesn't see -- or care -- that the world around it is crumbling.
But here's part of the conundrum: The parents who would use this authority are, by definition, the ones who are already committed to their children's education. Their action would do nothing to attack the problem of student absenteeism, which undercuts efforts to improve the district's performance.
So here's a suggestion: The council -- and all of the district's engaged parents -- should make it their task to help improve attendance.
If every parent with a child regularly attending school would contact one parent whose child is not and encourage him to ensure his child goes to school, that could be the start of a change that makes a difference, especially as Say Yes to Education ramps up its program in Buffalo. Mass transfers of students may or may not, and the logistics of it would be daunting.
Still, it is the parents' right under No Child Left Behind to transfer their children out of persistently under-achieving schools. We see no reason to begrudge parents who choose to use the tools available to ensure their children get the educations they need and deserve, especially when nothing else has worked.
But we hope the parents will also look at other options, including ones that can help to improve attendance in the schools. It is all to the good that parents, through the DPCC, are becoming more involved. They should look for as many ways to exert their influence as they can.