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Another Voice: It's time for the city to invest more in Buffalo's students

By Lawrence Scott
and Samuel L. Radford III

Under the leadership of Buffalo School Superintendent Kriner Cash and his team, positive opportunities, experiences and outcomes are unfolding daily across the city.

Cash’s New Education Bargain with Students and Parents has established 13 community schools, four parent centers, smaller class sizes in the early grades, meaningful partnerships with stakeholders, enhanced services for our neediest families and students, seven new high school programs and enriched after-school and summer school programming.

At our community schools, we enter open and energized buildings, with welcoming staff and a variety of enrichment and educational activities for adults and children. There is now a true sense of community felt in our schools. After years of oscillating graduation rates and services to our students and families, we must not go back. We must capitalize on this momentum for all of our students and families and make the necessary increased investment to sustain it.

The Buffalo Parent-Teacher Organization and District-Parent Coordinating Council urge an increase of at least $1 million in city aid to Buffalo Public Schools in order to continue and build on the New Education Bargain. Mayor Byron W. Brown has offered the district $500,000.

Resources and staff remain inadequate in the district, especially in comparison with neighboring suburban school districts. Staffing for art, music, health, librarians and counselors is more than double in suburban districts. The educational benefits and long-term outcomes of investing in what our children deserve are profound.

Even if we must have the hard discussion to spread out the cost by a tax increase, we must pay the price for improved results.

It had been 12 years since the city last increased aid to the Buffalo Public Schools. Of the Big 5 School Districts, the City of Buffalo contributes the lowest percentage of dollars. For example, in 2015-16 the City of Buffalo provided 5.6 percent, or $55,172,758, while the City of Rochester provided 13 percent, or $106,993,215. Furthermore, the state has determined that 90 percent of Buffalo students exhibit extraordinary needs, the highest of the Big 5.

As a community, we need to stop focusing on excuses for not investing in our school district, like the new teachers contract. This wasn’t used as an excuse the previous 12 years with no city aid increase, the same amount of time the contract was expired. Instead, we must consider all the reasons that Buffalo students deserve the greatest investment possible.

We should all agree that our students deserve to have the best teachers, who are competitively paid and supported, just like our suburban students. Why should there, again, be an exception for our city students? The only acceptable discussion is how we will create a solution; we cannot shortchange our success.

It’s past time for the City of Buffalo to significantly increase school aid and invest in our children and their futures.

Lawrence Scott is co-chairman of the Buffalo Parent-Teacher Organization. Samuel L. Radford III is president of the District Parent Coordinating Council.

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