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The Case For Charter Schools

Legal segregation is over, but inequality is alive and well in Buffalo.

Seven of Buffalo’s schools are deemed persistently low-achieving, and the State has recommended strong measures to turn around these schools, though it is unlikely that Dr. Williams will implement the recommendations or accept the millions of dollars in funding to do so. Additionally, the Schott Foundation’s biannual report was released last week with grim results for Buffalo, especially in the education of black males: one in four black males in Buffalo Public Schools will graduate from high school. There is no coincidence between our failing public schools and an increase in crime in the city.

Because of adult mistakes and self-interest, poor and minority children have been sentenced to low-performing schools with inadequate facilities and ineffective teachers. Instead of being the “Great Equalizer,” the leadership in the Buffalo Public Schools continues to perpetuate inequality by protecting the status quo, protecting failure. The result of this inaction and adult politics is a prescription of lifetime poverty: Poor and minority Buffalo children will stay poor, because they are poorly educated. Every family desiring a quality education for their child in the City of Buffalo must accept poorly performing schools because district leaders have been poor stewards of quality of education and have negotiated lousy contracts with unions over the years.

Rather than competing and providing leadership and innovation, all we hear from the leadership in the Buffalo Public Schools are excuses and blame—the leadership blames charter schools, students, parents, teachers, principals, colleges and universities, everyone except the leadership—and this blame is misplaced. Charter schools are providing a high-quality option for these parents, and the evidence is in the test scores and the waiting lists of these schools. Parents want the best education for their children, no matter what; parents are flocking to charter schools in their communities. For the most part, the teachers are exceptional, however they are not given the resources to continue to improve, nor are they adequately assessed and reviewed for performance so that they can better educate their students. Adult politics aside, our students and their education needs to be our number one priority.

Just as was true 50 and 150 years ago, the best hope these children have of lifting themselves out of poverty is a quality education that will ultimately lead to a good job that will aid in a productive economy. As President Obama has said, education is the strongest weapon against social inequality and the best path to opportunity in America. Without a good education, thousands of Buffalo’s children will remain poor through out their lives and many will become trapped in the cradle-to-grave prison pipeline that leads to dropping out of school, arrest and incarceration. Charter schools are providing a quality education in our neediest communities, and proving that every child, regardless of race and income, can succeed.

Katie Campos, Buffalo

Katie Campos is executive director of Buffalo ReformED, which advocates charter schools.

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