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Education Advocates Seek to Increase Voter Turnout

By Joyce Kryszak

Buffalo, NY – A Buffalo education advocacy group is working to draw more voters to the polls for this May's school board elections.

This is the first time in 15 years that all nine Buffalo School Board seats are open. And the Kellogg Leadership for Community Change says partisan groups are already lining up to influence the election. Their job could be made much easier by an apathetic public.

Barely more than four percent of Buffalo's 157,000 plus registered voters bothered to show up at the polls in 2001. KLCC Fellow Amy Liberatore says residents need to vote to send a strong message to Buffalo school children and to Buffalo's elected officials.

"We can all set a good example by exercising the fundamental, civil right of casting a vote in the upcoming school board elections," said Liberatore. "Our participation will also send a strong message to elected officials that the residents of Buffalo care deeply about our children's fundamental civil right to receive a quality education in the public schools."

And Liberatore says officials have a lot to say about the direction of education in Buffalo, with control over a more than $600 million budget. The KLCC says Buffalo voters often don't turn out because they don't directly effect the budget, like residents in the suburbs can. And some worry that the imposition of the Buffalo Fiscal Stability Authority will further deter voters. But KLCC Fellow Rashied McDuffie says voters still have a voice.

"The control board is here, but the control board also has limits," said McDuffie. "We have to be sure that the control board is working within the legislation that was crafted specifically for them. Just because we have a control board, they can just run rampant, and say 'you can't do this, you can't do this,' unless it's provided for in the New York State legislation."

The group will hold a public forum on January 24th at the downtown YWCA to help inform people about the impact of the Control Board, as well as the many other issues relevant in this year's election.

Residents will also be asked to help formulate a check list of desirable traits for a school board member to assist voters with making their choices.