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  • Writer's pictureScott for Buffalo Schools

The Conference of Big 5 School Districts

Updated: May 4, 2023


The Conference of Big 5 represents large urban school districts in New York State, now including more than five: Buffalo * New York City * Rochester * Syracuse * Yonkers * Albany * Mount Vernon * Utica. Our very own Board President Sharon Belton-Cottman serves as Chair of the Conference.


I recently attended the annual Conference of Big 5 Lobbying Days in Albany, back in person this year, whereby we met with various officials in the NYS Senate, Assembly, and Governor's Office, as well as NYSED Commissioner Dr. Betty Rosa and her key staff. Board President Sharon Belton-Cottman, At-Large Member Terrance Heard, and Superintendent Dr. Tonja Williams also attended this important advocacy event on behalf of Buffalo Public Schools.


It was a very informative and meaningful experience and it is encouraging to see some of our advocacy pay off in the Senate and Assembly one-house budget responses to the Governor's proposed budget.


Below is some important data on our urban districts and photos from the lobbying days. I will be sharing "fast facts" on social media over the coming days related to this experience.


2023 Overview and Data

  • Our urban school districts enroll 45% of New York State's public school students.

  • 65% of the State's English Language Learner pupils are educated in our member districts.

  • 50% of the State's special education students (ages 5-21) are educated in our city school districts.

  • 80% of New York State's pre-kindergarteners are educated in our school districts.

  • The percentages of our pupils with extraordinary needs are: Buffalo 87%; NYC 76%; Rochester 91%; Syracuse 86%; Yonkers 73%; Albany 71%; Mount Vernon 65%; and Utica 87%.

  • The Conference's school districts have high rates of student mobility, homelessness and students living in temporary shelters.

  • School buildings in our city school districts are older than others in the State and average over 72 years old.


Photo Gallery








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