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The Intersection of Public Education, Labor, & Democracy

Updated: Mar 29, 2022

Albert Shanker, former UFT & AFT President

Across the country, we have seen school board members who have been threatened and some who have quit, and there is a renewed push to dismantle public education, and, in some quarters, eliminate elected school boards altogether. I’ve lived the resistance of previous exploitive quests for state, federal, and mayoral takeover of Buffalo Public Schools, before serving on the Buffalo Board of Education. Now serving on the Board of Education, I know there are times of confrontation, inefficiency, and muddiness at Board meetings; however, I am today, a firmer believer in the publicly elected representation of a Board of Education and the role we serve as individual members and as an entire body to the public, our schools, and our children.

When I ran for the Buffalo Board of Education in 2019, upholding democratic principles and protecting against the exploitation of our public tax dollars and our children for profiteering, was an overarching commitment. As a whole, I believe our Buffalo Board of Education has lived up to this commitment, thus far. However, with the Board of Education Election approaching in November of 2022 and six sub-districts seats up for election, the forces are lurking to exploit, yet again. With this, I have decided to begin a new blog project, titled, The Intersection of Public Education, Labor, & Democracy.

It will consist of a series of blog reports challenging bias, preconceived narratives, and exploitation. I expect that some of this will not only challenge the political ideology of the right, but the left, as well. I will cover a range of issues, including the ongoing impact of the pandemic on schooling, standardized testing, student demographics, school attendance, and graduation rates.

For full disclosure, I am a proud public educator, union member, and parent of two Buffalo Public Schools’ students. This is the driving force of my bias, and my narrative. I believe in a public education system that provides access, opportunity, equity, and quality for all, while sustaining an organized public labor force. I believe that our teachers and staff need to be supported, valued, and fairly compensated to achieve what’s necessary and best in public education.

To begin, let me generally comment on the narrative spun by some in our community and media, as if only the Buffalo Public Schools are facing the challenges and struggles of the pandemic and our current times. The quandaries with learning, social-emotional wellness and mental health, violence, transportation, staffing, student attendance, and technology are everywhere- locally and nationally- in suburban, rural, charter, and private schools.

As a school psychologist in a suburban district, I am experiencing and witnessing all of this. A majority of students continue to fair well, while a greater percentage of students that struggle, has grown. In particular, their social, emotional, and behavioral difficulties have grown more frequent and severe.

The fact is, Buffalo Public Schools remained open to in-person learning every single day, this year, with the exception of a few remote days for inclement weather and remote days at McKinley High School. This was not the case elsewhere, locally and nationally. Private schools like Notre Dame Academy in South Buffalo and several Buffalo charter schools transitioned to remote learning for a period of time. North Tonawanda City Schools and Rochester City Schools had to shift to remote for a bus driver shortage, and many other urban districts, such as Detroit, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh, to name a few, transitioned to remote learning for a period of time.

Now, this is not naively saying that there’s nothing wrong in Buffalo Public Schools and everything is all hunky-dory. It’s not saying that we don’t deserve criticism. It’s not discounting the everyday challenges that our students, families, and staff continue to experience. These are real, they are profound, and they deserve much attention. This is saying that we are not alone in this struggle and the criticism on the outside should, at the very least, be fair and, most of all, not exploit.

In my first report, I will do a deep dive into the endless weaponizing of the grades 3-8 state assessments.

Stay tuned!

Larry Scott

Buffalo Board of Education


***The thoughts and opinions shared in this blog series are mine, and mine alone.***

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