Buffalo's PTO speaks out against mayoral control
The Buffalo Parent-Teacher Organization (BPTO) is speaking out against a proposal for possible mayoral control of the city school district. The organization issued a letter dated April 15, 2015, sent to top New York State leaders and Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown to oppose mayoral control.
The letter is addressed to State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Dean Skelos, NYS Senate Majority Leader, state Senator Joel Klein, the Western New York delegation of the State Senate and Assembly and Mayor Brown.
"Mayoral control has never been considered by the BPTO, nor have any elected officials approached the BPTO about this idea," stated Lawrence Scott, Buffalo Parent-Teacher Organization Co-Chair and School 81 Parent.
The letter explains that at it's membership meeting April 14, the BPTO discussed the idea of mayoral control and members voted to "unanimously approved a resolution, in opposition to mayoral control, as well as a federal and state receivership."
The organization also states that mayoral control in New York City has "not resulted in significant change and has certainly demonstrated an exclusion of the public in decision-making."
Copies of the letter were sent to Governor Andrew Cuomo, Dr. Catherine Collins, NYS Board of Regents At-Large Member and Buffalo School Board members.
State Assembly woman Crystal Peoples-Stokes is pursing legislation that would propose a mayoral-style takeover. Earlier this week Mayor Brown repeatedly stated to reporters during a news briefing that he's not personally seeking the control city schools.
"I am not asking for it. I am not campaigning for it. I am not lobbying for it," said Mayor Brown. "There would really need to be a groundswell of support from the community for me to move in that direction."
The following is the full content of the letter issued by the BPTO:
Carl Heastie, NYS Assembly Speaker
Dean Skelos, NYS Senate Majority Leader
Joel Klein, NYS Senator
Local NYS State Senators and Assembly Members
Byron Brown, Buffalo Mayor
Dear NYS Senators, NYS Assembly Members, and Mayor Byron Brown:
The Buffalo community recently learned about the possibility of state legislation being proposed to permit mayoral control over Buffalo Public Schools. This came as a surprise to the Buffalo Parent-Teacher Organization (BPTO) and many Buffalo community members, particularly with news reports alluding to pleas from the community for this action.
The BPTO is a growing stakeholder group representative of the Buffalo community and has been, diligently, involved in public control of Buffalo Public Schools and decision-making for their future. Mayoral control has never been considered by the BPTO, nor have any elected officials approached the BPTO about this idea.
On April 14, 2015, at a Membership Meeting, the BPTO discussed the idea of mayoral control and unanimously approved a resolution, in opposition to mayoral control, as well as a federal and state receivership. The BPTO supports and believes in local control of our Buffalo Schools. It should be the local public- educators, parents, students, and community members- who determine the fate of our schools, along with a publicly elected Board of Education.
Several years ago, the Buffalo community successfully campaigned to take control of Buffalo Schools away from the Mayor and established a Board of Education to better represent the Buffalo public and various needs of the community. Though our current Board of Education is not perfect and can be contentious, at times, each member is publicly elected and serves as a representative to the Buffalo community. The BPTO does not believe that the determination of who serves on the Board of Education should be taken from the public and placed into the hands of one individual or office.
Mayoral control in other cities, such as New York, has not resulted in significant change and has certainly demonstrated an exclusion of the public in decision-making. This, in addition to an unknown, established plan for what mayoral control in Buffalo would look like, what it would change, and how it would be different from the current governing structure, raises much concern and a need for caution. At the very least, the Buffalo community should be, meaningfully, involved in moving forward with any consideration for mayoral control. There has not been ANY public discourse on the matter. Without this, one can only be suspicious about the motives.
Rather than mayoral control, the BPTO believes that the focus should instead be on the search and selection of the next Superintendent. The BPTO requests that the Mayor and local state legislators urge the entire Board of Education to adhere to a comprehensive search and selection process with community involvement. A BPTO resolution on the Superintendent Search is also included.
We welcome further discussion on these matters and issues pertaining to Buffalo Public Schools. Please feel free to contact us.
Buffalo Parent-Teacher Organization Co-Chair
School 81 Parent
Cc: Governor Andrew Cuomo
Dr. Catherine Collins, NYS Board of Regents At-Large Member
Mayor Byron Brown
Members of City Common Council
Buffalo School Board Members
Donald Ogilvie, Interim Superintendent