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Addressing ‘civil rights’ for admission policy to criteria-based city schools

WBFO News photo by Mike Desmond

Buffalo Public School students don't have a fair shot at getting into the city's best public schools.  WBFO'S Mike Desmond said that was the message delivered Thursday evening during a meeting in Stanley Makowski School. 

The city school system has brought in a team from UCLA and its Civil Rights Project to look at the entrance rules for Buffalo's criteria-based schools.  Schools such as Olmsted, City Honors and the Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts require entrance rules.     

Professor Gary Orfield is project director.  The national expert spent two-hours in Buffalo Thursday listening to parental complaints, questions and comments about the schools. Many complaining that even people with advanced college degrees have difficulty with the convoluted admissions rules. 

Credit WBFO News photo by Mike Desmond
Professor Gary Orfield with UCLA and its Civil Rights Project.

"This is a legal process as well as a research process," said Orfield. 

"This is a legal process as well as a research process," said Orfield.

Orfield told those attending the meeting criteria schools will continue.

"I don't think there is anybody who thinks it would be a bad idea to expand opportunity or to make the choices more powerful. Those are lines of action," stated Orfield. "There are a lot of people who are worried that something will be degraded. To the best of our ability, we will suggest nothing that would degrade anything that is important in terms of educational opportunity."

Many speakers at the meeting said a significant part of the problem is troubled elementary schools in

Buffalo which don't help students reach the academic levels for the criteria-based schools.

The compliant was filed with the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights. "The Office of Civil Rights basically created a settlement with us," noted Will Keresztes, Association Schools Superintendent. "This is not about changing the framework of how schools are constituted, this is not about changing the programs.  This is about a pretty basic questions; is there something we can do in our application process to improve it?" 

Credit WBFO News photo by Mike Desmond
Parents listen to presentation.

The Buffalo Public School District has long had problems with student placement, especially with so many failing city schools.  '

"We are going to be implementing surveys, we are going to be doing surveys with both parents who have applied to criteria schools who have gotten in, those who have applied and not gotten in," said Orfield.

The complaints were filed by Buffalo parents, Carolette Meadows, Patricia Elliott-Patton and Desire Radford. 

Meadows appeared at the meeting asking Orfield about parents and children not feeling there are barriers.  Meadows said she homeschool's her daughter. 

"One of the barriers that I have constantly come up against with with the district, is the fact that the district is paying for my child, but excluded from anything in the district," said Meadows.  "When I apply for her to go to a criteria-based school, homeschool students only meet two of seven points for admissions -- homeschool kids are automatically bared from these schools -- so it's a waste of time."


Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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