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The Editorial Board: Legislation to restrict charter schools in Buffalo hurts families who want better

The Editorial Board: Legislation to restrict charter schools in Buffalo hurts families who want better

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Westminster Community Charter School (copy) (copy)

Albany would halt the creation of charter schools in Buffalo if legislation sponsored by Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes is approved. Pictured above is a class in Westminster Community Charter School, which the city school board recently voted to revert to district control.

City of Buffalo parents deserve educational choice other than currently being offered in the traditional public schools. Unfortunately, legislation prohibiting the approval of any new charter schools within Buffalo as of July 1 inhibits educational opportunity.

Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes has introduced the legislation, saying that the city has reached a saturation point with charter schools. It’s a disappointing assessment.

The Urban Think Tank agrees. The group is composed of local pastors, attorneys and community leaders who have taken a stand against the proposed state legislation, and rightly so. Charter schools have always been an alternative for parents, especially those who could not afford private school education.

The Buffalo School Board voted last month not to renew the charters for Enterprise and Westminster charter schools. Westminster Community Charter School will revert to district control.

Both schools scored poorly in English and math but, to be fair, the low percentages were similar to Buffalo Public Schools. The troubles run deep throughout the two systems but one – charters – is being held to account.

Moreover, charters outperformed traditional public schools on a statewide level when testing the lower grades in 2019, according to Bishop Michael Badger of the Bethesda World Harvest International Church, one of the group’s members. Taking away the charter school option is unacceptable, Badger said. He was particularly troubled by the closing of Westminster, which has ties to M&T Bank.

The bank began a partnership with the school in 1993 and has devoted more than $17.8 million to its operation. That investment includes teacher training, summer programming for children, nutrition and health and technology. M&T Bank Chairman and CEO René Jones recently registered his disappointment at the School Board’s decision. His comments came during M&T’s annual shareholders meeting at which time he said M&T will continue to work with the school.

The pressure to dismiss charters runs high among opponents. Buffalo Teachers Federation President Phil Rumore noted that most charters enroll a smaller percentage of high-need students, those with disabilities and those whose native language is not English. Critics of charters often cite lost funding when students attend charter schools, but that funding belongs to the student and not one particular system.

Bottom line: Attempting to impose a moratorium on charter schools may suit the BTF and other critics, but it’s main effect is to eliminate educational options.

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What’s your opinion? Send it to us at lettertoeditor@buffnews.com. Letters should be a maximum of 300 words and must convey an opinion. The column does not print poetry, announcements of community events or thank you letters. A writer or household may appear only once every 30 days. All letters are subject to fact-checking and editing.

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