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We don’t have enough criteria-based schools

“All of us know what those conditions are: ignorance, discrimination, slums, poverty, disease, not enough jobs. … We should attack these conditions … because there is simply no other way to achieve a decent and orderly society in America.” And just who is this radical uttering such effrontery to the privatization reform movement ushered in by Presidents George W. Bush and Obama? It was President Lyndon B. Johnson, in 1967, addressing the nation after commissioning the investigation of riots.

Half a century later, we have our federal government probing Buffalo’s school district for racial discrimination, seemingly searching for some missing justice too long denied. But federal and state education departments are looking in the wrong place for injustice, by holding the 66 percent white kids at City Honors responsible for the decades of darkness of not adequately funding public education, and now worse, parceling out what remains to private concerns.

Criteria-based schools like City Honors and Hutch-Tech are not the problem. The problem is we don’t have enough of them! Standardized tests don’t have to be the only or major criteria, either. Have ample after-school programs for all grades, but especially the elementary, and have the humanities be the core curriculum, while standardized tests are few, far between and low stakes. Only the classroom teachers and administrators should be doing the evaluating.

Buffalo’s kids can learn that their society is decent and cares for them. Then an orderly society – productive, competitive and alive – will bring a prosperity that we can all share in.

Ray Peterson

Buffalo

Equity and access are issues at top schools

Donn Esmonde’s recent column made my stomach lurch, my blood boil and my heart break. Apparently, he suffers under the same misconception that many in our community do. No one is asking the schools that have a qualifying exam or audition to lower their standards. What families, students and community members are asking is that all schools open their hearts, their minds and yes, their doors, to all students in this district.

These are equity and access issues. “Dumbing down” is not the request, nor the desire, but rather ensuring all students may exercise their legal right to apply and be accepted on their own merits. Too many schoolhouse doors in this district have been historically slammed in the faces of students whose native language is other than English, whose skin is other than white and whose poverty may impede them.

Why is the automatic assumption that such students could not possibly be bright enough or talented enough to gain admission on their own? The data is so skewed as to be criminal.

Nice of Esmonde to casually mention that his daughters both attended City Honors. I’d love him to meet the mother who was told, “Well, if we let ‘them’ (language minority students) in, there won’t be enough room.” Enough room for what? For the children of the parents who only stay in the district if their kids get into the “good” schools? All of our students deserve to be in good schools!

Decades ago my older daughter, as a fourth-grader perusing magnet school options, was asked if she was going to attend City Honors. Her brains and her talent surely would win her a coveted spot. She emphatically answered, “I’m not going there with the pseudo-intellectuals and racists.” You see, a dear African-American friend had been rejected. Some things never change.

Ann K. Lupo

Buffalo

State needs to abolish outdated Scaffold Law

As a partner in a small, third-generation family business, I was pleased to see The News editorial about the “misbegotten Scaffold Law.” I was dismayed a few days later to read the response from Richard W. Hurd of Cornell University. While he states that the methodology used to make the case against the Scaffold Law “fails to control for relevant institutional influences,” nowhere is there any mention that a contractor or property owner is legally deemed to be at fault, allowing for no defense in a court case.

While no reasonable person wants to see a worker injured or killed, that goal should not and cannot override the concept of personal responsibility of the worker. The idea that a property owner can hire a contractor and then be held liable for the actions, no matter how unreasonable, is madness.

We need good laws and practices to ensure that workers are protected; this is something we all can agree on. And while Hurd may be 100 percent correct with his summary of procedures, the conclusion that the 1885 law needs to remain on the books in 2014 seems to be erroneous. It boggles the mind to think that an individual can be 100 percent liable for something he has no control over.

Vincent Morabito

Williamsville

Scaffold Law helps keep workers safe

The News editorial on the Scaffold Law failed to scrutinize the group that paid more than $80,000 for the study cited: the New York Civil Justice Institute, a right-wing research group that shares offices with an industry-backed front group that has lobbied for years to gut the law.

Moreover, the study’s central claim – that the Scaffold Law actually puts Buffalo workers at higher risk of injury – is a flimsy, unfounded industry talking point. Digging into the details, the finding is based on comparing rates of injury in the construction industry to those of much safer sectors, including lines of work like “wholesale trade.”

Of course job categories affected by the Scaffold Law are more dangerous – that’s why the law was instituted in the first place, and why Buffalo’s labor movement has continued to support it.

As The News has reported, new construction is booming in Western New York. At the same time, construction remains dangerous work. We should be doing more, not less, to improve worksite safety. In reality, the law has made workers in Buffalo safer for decades. Today, our state has the fifth-lowest construction injury rate in the country. Why? Because the law provides a powerful incentive for contractors and property owners to make worksites safe.

Germain Harnden

Director, WNYCOSH

Buffalo

Building sounds great, but pick a better name

I greatly admire Rocco Termini for his ongoing efforts in revitalizing Buffalo. Each of his buildings has been beautifully restored, earning high praise and further enhancing Buffalo pride. His latest project, a restaurant featuring hot dogs, will be a unique architectural structure.

In a recent News article, this soon-to-be-built structure was described as “green, sustainable and made from recycled materials.” This kind of building will not only be unique, it may also help highlight the value of this form of architecture.

I was extremely disappointed, however, when I heard the name of this new restaurant will be Dog é Style. Although some might find humor in this risque name, others will surely find it inappropriate and offensive. Such a name will most certainly invite crude comments from some who go there. It is terrible role modeling. Our city deserves much better.

I am hoping Termini reconsiders the name, choosing instead one that doesn’t detract from the exciting architectural design of his new building, and its environmental importance.

Chris Snyder

Hamburg

Senior citizens enjoy a good hot dog, too

I am responding to the front-page article of March 11 describing Rocco Termini’s plan for a 3,000-square-foot restaurant on Genesee Street.

I commend Termini for the redevelopment plans he has accomplished around Buffalo and for his future endeavors. The article and pictures described the building as a two-story restaurant using recycled shipping containers. The eatery will specialize in hot dogs. Termini was quoted as saying, “We’re so conservative downtown” and “I’m not looking for 70- or 80-year-olds to come there.”

Occasionally senior citizens do enjoy a good hot dog and do take in the new activity in downtown.

Alan Sommer

Grand Island

It feels un-American to buy a foreign car

This is a rebuttal to the March 14 letter, “Freedom also means driving what you want.” I get paid in U.S. dollars, not Japanese yen or German marks. While no one can make you buy an American car, I feel it is un-American to purchase a foreign one. Forget about where the parts are made or where the assembly plants are located. The bottom line is the profit goes back to the foreign country, not to the United States.

Jim Burczynski

Lancaster

Students should always be encouraged to read

The front-page article on March 18, “Why should kids just sit and stare?” upset me. I cannot believe some school administrators would rather have children sit than read a book. Apparently administrators in Lancaster, Williamsville and a few other districts have no sense or are being vindictive.

As a retired educator, I spent my career encouraging students to read. Research shows that the more a child reads appropriate books, the better reader he/she becomes. Reading a good book would engage the students and perhaps if they found the “just right” book, encourage them to read even more. I understand that books must be print because no electronic devices are allowed in the test rooms. However, many of us found the magic of reading a book instead of sitting in front of a screen. I would think anyone in education would want to encourage the love of reading and not punish the students and parents who opt out.

Pamela F. Boehler

Hamburg

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