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Teachers picket Buffalo School Board

Mike Desmond/wbfo news

The decade-long fight between Buffalo's school system and the Buffalo Teachers Federation over a contract surfaced at Wednesday's Buffalo Board of Education  meeting where hundreds of teachers protested. Both sides say they may be closer to a contract because of Taylor Law-mandated procedures, but they aren't there yet and any pay deal might cost more than the district has in reserves.

BTF President Phil Rumore made a rare appearance at a board meeting to give a long list of the financial effects on teachers of the decade since the last contract expired. He says their from pay is below suburban schools. The lag in pay is also costing city teachers in   pension benefits.

Rumore says used the example of one city teacher where those financial issues are impacting the classroom.

According to Rumore, the teacher has "33 students in her kindergarten, 33. That is not just wrong, it's immoral. It's immoral."

Credit Mike Desmond/wbfo news
BTF President Phil Rumore spoke at Wednesday's meeting at the Academy for the Visual and Performing Arts.

"Many of our teachers have the same problem with class size," Rumore said.

"We have English Language Learners. We have 40 different languages spoken in our schools. We have insufficient support for those kids and their families."

Board members are aware of both situations but talks have dragged on for years, through many superintendents. Most said a new contract was a priority but there still isn't one.

The board was also told nearly $1.5 billion was spent on rebuilding city schools. Board Member Carl Paladino says the Joint Schools Construction Board has now decided to do an audit of the program's 14 years.

"The program manager was instructed to renovate six schools and anything that he had left over was his," Paladino explained.

"Now, I've never heard of that in the private industry. We don't do it that way. We don't tell contractors what we have available to do this job. We ask the contractors for bids."

Under board rules, Paladino wasn't supposed to identify LP Ciminelli as the program manager.