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'Like mixing apples with kumquats' says city teachers union about charter comparison

Elmwood Village Charter School
Elmwood Village Charter School is among the SUNY charters schools in Buffalo.

Test score results are going to the SUNY Board of Trustees Monday, saying SUNY-chartered schools are doing better than regular public schools.

The charter school business can be complicated. There are State Education Department charters, SUNY charters and charters from local school districts.

In a report from the SUNY Charter Schools Institute, new data shows test results from the range of SUNY charters is substantially above regular public schools. The report says nothing about the other charter schools, just public schools. It says SUNY charters are 15 percent better in ELA and nearly 20 percent better in math.

Buffalo Teachers Federation President Phil Rumore said this kind of report is fairly common.

"Once again, it's no suprise. It's a very selective way that they do business there. It's a selective clientele that they have, but also they don't have the kind of special ed students that we have," Rumore said. "We have 6-1-1. The last study we did, they don't have anywhere near the foreign languages that we have. Like, we have 80-some odd different languages. It's like mixing apples with kumquats."

Buffalo Public Schools officials have long complained about these comparisons, saying the city's regular public schools educate large numbers of handicapped students, have around a quarter of students that don't have English as their primary language and are often faced with students being sent back from charters just before state tests are taken.

"There's gonna be charter schools that are doing well and charter schools that are doing poorly," Rumore said. "Once again, the charter schools are charter schools. They have a selective groups of students. The parents have chosen to send them to a different school and told them, basically, that to do well here. If they don't do well at a charter school, the charter schools, if they act up or something like that, kick them out and send them to the public schools."

Rumore said a big difference is that charters have smaller class sizes, which his teachers would like to have.

"The things that make a difference is that, if a parent chooses to send their child to a charter school, they have then put their student on notice that, 'Look it. I'm sending you to this charter school' and that student has a parent that has taken an interest. Not that the parents in Buffalo don't, but that's a little extra boost for the student."

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.