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Union leader calls for level playing field with charter schools

Ashley Hirtzel/WBFO News

The leader of the Buffalo Teachers Federations says the State Education Department should require charter schools have a population that is reflective of regular city schools.A report released Thursday finds that there are little to no students with special needs or English Language Learners in the city’s charters. In Buffalo, 20 percent of students are classified as having special needs while the reporting charters only have between 6 to 13 percent of their students are classified as special needs.

The report also finds that 7 of the 13 charters have suspension rates from 27 to 52 percent, while the suspension rate in the Buffalo district is 18 percent. The data also shows that in a majority of the reporting charters, fewer students are eligible for free lunches.

BTF President Phil Rumore says charter schools should not be allowed to select their populations. He says the information puts into context what charter schools are, and are not, doing.

"The state should require that the charter schools have a population that is reflective of the regular public schools. We're not against charter schools. What we want to do is have a level playing field, so that they have the same type of students that we have [and] they have to meet the same certification requirements," Rumore said.

The study also shows that in 73 percent of the 15 reporting charter schools, 50 percent of the students failed one or more 4th or 8th grade state test. The data was collected from the 2011-12 school year with information from the State Education Department.

The study will be forwarded to the State Education Department, the Buffalo Board of Education and the local delegation.