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Waiting lists at Buffalo’s criteria schools makes them unavailable for transfers

It is understandable that parents and guardians want their children in the best schools possible. However, in the case of thousands of Buffalo Public School students demanding their rightful transfers out of low-performing schools, three top schools are not taking transfers. And this time the problem may not be the fault of the district.

City Honors and Olmsted 64 and 156 are coveted criteria-based schools under heavy demand at all times. There is already a waiting list for these schools, which also have tough admission requirements. To allow parents to seek transfers to those schools when no seats are available would be, as district officials have indicated, unfair.

Still, the parent group behind the push for more fairness in admissions to criteria-based schools is doing its job in demanding an explanation from the district.

As recently reported, the district dropped those three schools from the list of choices.

The move comes as the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights is taking a hard look at the differences in acceptance rates for black and white students at the criteria schools.

The District Parent Coordinating Council wants the Board of Education to reverse its decision and include those schools on the list of transfer possibilities, under the threat of going to federal and state officials. But the situation seems plain. State Education Department officials gave the district the go-ahead to omit the schools because each has a waiting list for every grade and there are no seats available.

The federal Office of Civil Rights is in the midst of investigating whether the district has been disproportionately excluding nonwhite students from some of its top schools, such as Olmsted and City Honors. If that turns out to be the case, then the district will answer for it.

Parents want their children to succeed and know that having them attend a low-performing school makes that success less likely. It is their right to move children out of low-performing schools and into schools in good standing. It is the obligation of the district to ensure there are seats in those schools.

But with waiting lists in place at criteria-based schools, it is reasonable, for now, to leave them off the list of available schools.