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Buffalo has one of the largest Achievement Gaps in the country between White Males and Black Males in terms of graduation rates.

by Chris Stevenson

What happens in Buffalo should stay in Buffalo. I don’t wish our troubles on any other city, and most have been wise enough to not imitate us. But it’s been brought to my attention that how successful or unsuccessful the charter school movement becomes here has broad national implications because the nation is watching. If there is a charter school takeover then the school-to-prison pipline becomes official. On one hand you have the old guard, public schools. Once upon a time (back in the ancient ’70’s) public schools languished in smug-fiscal security because they were the only show in town. Since then they saw a decline in quality education due to several factors, declining traditional families, especially black families, removal of classes like Civics, removal of corporal punishment, you can also make a case for banning prayer but I know too many are going to dismiss that as a factor (but when your kids stop praying to God, a god will be put in front of them as a replacement), reduced music classes and instruments, less competent teachers, more cynical teachers, and a silent number of parents who really expect the teachers to raise their kids. After parents pushed the shift in these and other cultural trends, they began noticing their defective kids were defective, thus a new idea made it’s way to Buffalo, charter schools. In other words after fucking up public schools through various means such as the courts, parents now wanted to abandon that which they fucked up. Damn shame too. Buffalo NY was the first city in the state to have free education supported entirely by local taxes.

According to “A Financial Analysis of Buffalo Charter Schools:

In 2000-01, only two charter schools existed in the City of Buffalo. 314 students attended these schools and cost the District $2.1 million in tuition payments. By 2005-06, there were 15 charters, 5,599 students were enrolled and tuition, at the time, was projected to be $49.8 million. In 2004, New York Stated Education Department (NYSED) addressed a letter to the Board of Regents concerning the fact that BPS was spending over 7.5% of its total budget on charter school payments. By the time of fiscal year ending June 30, 2005, payments were 8.1% of the budget. As of the 2014-15 school year, charter payments consisted of 12% of the BPS budget. Where has all this fuss taken us in the bottom line? Buffalo has one of the largest achievement gaps in the country between white males and black males in terms of graduation rates ( NYS Report Card, 2011).


Currently the Los Angeles Unified School District leads the nation in the actual number of charter schools with 230, and actual numer of students with 151,310. The Orleans Parish School District in Louisiana has the highest percentage of charter schools by district with a whopping 93%. Last fall someone leaked plans to further flood Los Angeles with even more charter schools by an organization called Great Public Schools Now. Oakland faces the same threat. There are charters with great success stories, and then there’s the horror stories. In New Orleans, still smarting after Hurricane Katrinna bizarre methods are being used to sift children out:

“…a small minority of New Orleans public schools has yet to embrace the common application, known as OneApp, which was designed to make the admissions process both easy and equitable. The Times Picayune story examines the ‘mind-numbingly complex application processes that test a parent’s savvy, access to transportation and ability to get off work’ at three of these schools, which happen to be among the top-ranked in the city.

If you want to send your child to one of the three schools in this story, you must complete ‘a unique set of requirements so complicated that parents have made spreadsheets to keep track of the steps,’ including some combination of: parent attendance at a school curriculum meeting (no tardiness allowed); a questionnaire; an application hand-delivered to the school during business hours (but not, at one school, between the hours of 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.), a ‘portfolio of the student’s work,’ whatever that could possibly mean for an early-elementary-age kid; the child’s attendance record; and ‘scores from a single sitting of a standardized exam, with no retests allowed.’

One of the schools requires a ‘hand-drawn self-portrait, a second piece of artwork and a handwriting sample’ for prospective kindergartners. (Oh, and this work can only be submitted in a specific color of folder that changes every year.) It’s no wonder that one parent in the article compared the admissions process to competing in the Hunger Games.”

If you cna’t figure out the purpose for much of these shenanigans just check the Louisiana prison industry for the end-result of their charter school games: “Louisiana is the world’s prison capital. The state imprisons more of its people, per head, than any of its U.S. counterparts. First among Americans means first in the world. Louisiana’s incarceration rate is nearly five times Iran’s, 13 times China’s and 20 times Germany’s.”. I could go on about the charter school-to-prison route, but I would only be making public schools feel left out, once again they started this mess.

Not all families have to go through these hurdles to get their child in, children from well-connected families are seen as having avoided these.

While I don’t agree with Sen. Jeffrey Klein (D) who recently stated “Charter Schools are public schools, and public schools are charter schools, I personally don’t favor an either/or when it comes to educating children in Buffalo. I root for the schools that are performing the best. I understand the issues with public schools and their unions, pensions, etc., but they’re the ones that got us into this mess, and some charter schools kick ass. On the other hand, at worst any mad scientist can start a charter school and do god-knows-what with black students. In view of the Say Yes to Education Foundation’s efforts to grant tuition to all local graduating students here, it could be the rush to charterize Buffalo schools is ill-timed. Only students who attend BPS schools will be eligible to receive any percentage of the free tuition. And it gets good results, in Syracuse where the program originally began the dropout rate was reduced by 44%, and real estate values around their schools has risen.

Buffalo has a lot of issues confronting it politically, but on the subject of schools if the kids aren’t our first and lasting priority, then this town is in serious trouble.

Chris Stevenson is author of “The MAO Syndrome: A Timeline of Newspaper columns Tracking Hate, Fear, Loathing, Obstinacy, and Stubbornness of many on the right & some on the left who are simply Mad At Obama.” He is also a regular columnist for blackcommentator, and a contributor to the Hampton Institute, his own blog www.thebuffalobullet.com, and a syndicated columnist. Follow him on Twitter, and Facebook, you don’t have to join any of them. Watch his video commentary Policy & Prejudice for clbTV & Follow his Blogtalkradio interviews on 36OOseconds. Respond to him by email; pointblankdta@yahoo.com

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2 Comments on "#OnlyGoodSchoolsMatter"

  1. Thank you for your comment and correcting me on the Say Yes update Larry. This piece was meant to be niether pro or con public or charter education, only pro-students Some may read and say I went off too much on Charter, others may assume I made cutting remarks against Public schools. This is not the last piece I will do on the Buffalo schools, stay tuned

  2. Mr. Stevenson, This is a thought provoking critique of public Ed in Buffalo. Though I don’t agree with every point made, I strongly agree with your overall sentiment. As parents, we all must have ownership of the problems and the solutions in partnership with other relevant stakeholders. Under the leadership of Dr. Cash, I believe we are slowly seeing this.

    I recently included this in a piece I’ve submitted for publication that I think echoes your sentiment:

    “In continued partnership among administrators, education staff, parents, students and relevant community stakeholders, we must aim to advance systemic solutions to meet the needs of ALL students, which public education is rightfully required to do, regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, gender identity/orientation, religion, disability, primary language, and behavioral challenges.”

    As you referenced, there are some charters doing great things for many Buffalo students and families. They should continue. Systemically though, charters have proven not to be the panacea for urban education. For one, there continues to be no charter in WNY which educates ALL students, particularly pertaining to students with severe disabilities and behavioral challenges. We need systemic changes, such as Community Schools, small class sizes, restorative justice, and innovative programming to engage students, which work for all students, especially our neediest.

    (Please note, Say Yes does now provide scholarships to Buffalo charter students).

    Thank you for sharing!

    Larry Scott

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