By Crystal Peoples-Stokes
Charter schools exist to give parents and students a choice. Why shouldn’t they have a choice? My grandson graduated from a charter school and did very well. I am an advocate for school choice and for charter schools. However, a major problem with the growing number of charter schools in the district is the heavy burden of funding.
Superintendent Kriner Cash is doing incredible work and accomplishing more than former superintendents have combined during their tenures. The focus on strong community schools with wraparound services for students and families, extended school hours and the increase in graduation numbers are all great things for our community. Despite the progress being made in the district, the continuous decrease in funding for Buffalo Public Schools in order to fund charter schools undermines the efforts of Dr. Cash and district officials.
As a resident of Buffalo and a former educator, I am greatly concerned with the current issues facing education in our area. There are growing concerns regarding the increase of charter school openings with two more to open in 2018, the extreme modification to the teacher certification requirements for charter schools and the lack of qualified candidates to fill the gap of minority teachers in the local school system.
The charter schools committee of SUNY’s Board of Trustees removed required teacher certification for some charter schools, which is a disservice to the children in our community. It is critical that educators are prepared to effectively educate those children that are in the most need. It’s important that we look for ways to alleviate teacher shortage, but uncertified and unqualified teachers are not the solution. At charter schools’ inception, the intent wasn’t competition but to provide choice and demonstrate best practices for educating our future workforce. Dr. Cash has visited and has open dialogue with successful charters. From an outside observer who reads the district’s daily updates, it appears some of those best practices are implemented in schools under receivership, which is clearly a step in the right direction!
It is clear the district has a commitment to continuous improvements. The New Education Bargain Strategic Plan, based on commitments for students, teachers, parents and community, is a plan that can work. However, as much as we’d all like to see more resources to ensure its success, New York State dollars are not endless. Let’s not hinder the success of the district and support existing charters by placing a five-year moratorium on new charters. Everybody is collecting hard data. Let’s review in five years and lift the moratorium if necessary or accept that traditional public schools can and will educate our future workforce and leaders.
Buffalo residents must voice their concerns about the growing number of charter schools in the area and their effect on traditional public school funding. I will do my part to push for the separation of funding for charter schools and traditional public schools. We must do our best to ensure the success of all children.
Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes, D-Buffalo, represents the 141st District.