Buffalo, New York is becoming, or perhaps has already become, the epicenter of the fight against privatization of public education in the State. The most recent assault on the school district is being led by Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl H. Tisch and Acting Commissioner Elizabeth Berlin, who have targeted Buffalo as a prime example of the State’s struggling school districts, even though Rochester and Syracuse have educational outcomes that are historically lower than Buffalo’s.
One has to ask the question, then; Why Buffalo? Over the last few years, during Commissioner King’s tenure, Buffalo has been singled out for one mandate after the other, continued criticism and the imposition of a Distinguished Educator. However, the recent addition of pro-charter Board members, one in particular wealthy developer Carl Paladino, who has stated his intention to “disassemble” the District, seems to have given impetus to SED’s focus on the Buffalo schools. In a New Year’s Day letter, Chancellor Tisch called on Governor Cuomo to propose legislation that would give the State the power to remove and replace school boards in troubled districts and/or to appoint a “school Czar”. No doubt, Buffalo is seen as a model contender for this distinction.
To no one’s surprise, Board President James Sampson responded to this proposal by noting that he believed it would be his obligation and responsibility to step aside if such a law were passed. Carl Paladino, with visible glee, responded that he’d be happy to step down, but only if the appointment of the school “czar” was a-political. Fat chance for that happening.
Although Rochester and Syracuse don’t appear to be in the Regent’s cross hairs at this point, if Buffalo is allowed to fall, can they be far behind? Now is the time to call on our legislators, state, county and city to oppose this blatant assault on public education. In the end, for those of us who support public education, this is about the children. We can’t allow “reformers”/privateers to gut the system of its resources depriving the most vulnerable children and disenfranchising our communities.