By Larry Scott
Our health care and front-line workers have gallantly stepped up to meet the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, while, our public school systems have strategically adapted to meet the needs of our children and families. We have provided remote learning, health and wellness services and nutritious meals to our students, as well as coordinated child care for parents who are essential health care workers.
Teachers, principals, food service workers, custodial staff, school security and community volunteers, have demonstrated sacrifice and fortitude to meet the needs of our children and families.
Our parents and children have stepped up in the face of this public health threat, withstanding many demands compelled upon them with little notice and preparation. At the same time, many of our families are coping with unemployment, isolation and ever-changing events and uncertainty. I have witnessed all of this firsthand, and, in my eyes, our school and home providers are unsung heroes.
We know well that Covid-19 has impacted New York most, and its economic hit has severely hampered the state budget, resulting in cuts to education aid. With Buffalo Public Schools relying almost entirely on state aid to operate, we are facing a deficit of $90 million for the 2020-21 school year. An additional 20% cut in school aid that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo recently indicated would unjustly plummet our district into an unrecoverable state indefinitely.
Though great efforts have been made to continue learning remotely, direct learning in a classroom is irreplaceable, and it is safe to say that every child has had their learning interrupted – whether by sheer academics, or the trauma that comes along with the unprecedented pandemic. This interruption is magnified for our Buffalo children, many of whom exhibit extraordinary needs such as impoverishment, special education disability, linguistic diversity, previous trauma and digital divide.
I cannot recall a time when our children and families are going to need more; our utmost in staffing, programming and services. The concept of providing less, much less, is unconscionable at this time, and would be devastating.
Our federal government, in cooperation with the state, must intervene. As they have for the airlines and big businesses, our elected officials must provide substantial relief to our public schools, and especially our high-need urban districts. Raising federal and/or state taxes on the wealthy to avert draconian cuts to education must be on the table.
From March 18 to April 22, 26 million Americans lost their jobs, while America’s billionaires gained more than $300 billion in wealth; therefore, I do not think it is too much to ask the wealthy to share in the humanity, compassion and sacrifice that so many have demonstrated across this state and nation.
I plead with our federal and state legislators: Do not leave our children and their education and futures behind.
Larry Scott is an at-large member of the Buffalo Board of Education.