Equity in Access, Opportunities, & Supports
A free and appropriate public education is an essential element in a democracy. Each of our children deserve and have a right to a quality public education with equitable access and opportunity. Buffalo Public Schools are on the rise under the “Education Bargain with Students & Parents” with a focus on early elementary education, strong community schools, innovative high schools, extended learning, services for our neediest children and families, and relationship with teachers.
We now have 17 Strong Community Schools and 4 Parent Centers serving parents, families, students, and communities. We have 10 new innovative high school programs and 7 new Career Technical Education certifications established. Graduation and proficiency rates are rising and more students are enrolling in college, particularly, our students of color, much in part to the work of Say Yes Buffalo and My Brother’s Keeper. We have much more work to do and we must continue to move Buffalo Schools forward, together.
According to NY State Education Department, 90% of our, almost 34,000 Buffalo students, exhibit extraordinary needs. We have, almost 5,400 English Language Learners, speaking 84 different languages and coming from 76 countries. 84% of our students are economically disadvantaged and 18% have a disability. Additionally, 80% of students in Buffalo Public Schools, are non-white, with 47% identified as Black. Along with Buffalo being one of the poorest cities, it also one of the most segregated. There is no doubt that both a racial divide and inequity exists in Buffalo and its surrounding suburbs. Race and culture must be part of our conversations, especially when it comes to the education of our children.
Significant inequities exist for our urban school districts, students of color, and students who are economically disadvantaged. Our city students have a right to and deserve the programs, supports, and opportunities that our suburban students receive. We need real investment in art, music, libraries, mental health, reading and math specialists, accelerated and advanced placement courses, trauma informed care, restorative practices, culturally and linguistically responsive teaching, innovative career and technical education and trades, whole-child, school, and community learning. Comprehensive plans and worthy initiatives are meaningless if we don’t invest in them; if we don’t provide the necessary staff, supports, and resources.
Under Larry's leadership, last year, efforts were made to change injustices in our public transportation for our Buffalo students. Opportunities were organized for parents, students, educators, and the community to make their concerns and recommendations known to the NFTA and District. As a result of the collective voice of many, noteworthy progress transpired, with revised policies to begin the 2018-19 school year.
Transportation justice remains an important priority in the city of Buffalo. Most of our students and families do not have access to their own transportation and rely on public transportation. Our Buffalo high school students, whether public, charter, or private, have a right to and deserve accessible and safe NFTA transportation, which centers on learning and enrichment, and not policing. Our elementary students need bus transportation that is timely, reliable, adequately staffed, and safe. Inadequate and unsafe transport to and from school and related events, can be incredibly impactful on a child's attendance and success in school and beyond.
Safe & Inclusive School Climate
Safe and inclusive school climate must be a priority for each of our schools, regardless of race, ethnicity, country of origin, disability, language, gender identity, sexual orientation, economic status, and religion. Our students need fair and just implementation of the Code of Conduct & adherence to the Dignity for All Students Act, incorporating meaningful alternatives to suspension, such as restorative practices, mediation, restitution, and community service. This must go beyond just training staff, and also include providing necessary staff and resources to implement alternatives with fidelity. This must also include continued efforts to alter the disproportionate amount of students of color and students with a disability being suspended.
Whole-Child, Whole-School, Whole-Community
The District's comprehensive Wellness Policy, which is multifaceted with a strong emphasis on the whole child, whole school and whole community, requires proper resources and staff, to ensure that our students physical, social-emotional, medical, nutritional, and spiritual needs are being met.