Buffalo Public Schools upbeat about state budget, approve charter school and Metro Bus plans
Buffalo Public Schools Superintendent Kriner Cash was upbeat Wednesday evening, after testifying virtually before the fiscal committees of the state legislature about Gov. Kathy Hochul's proposed increase in school aid to local districts, like Buffalo.
Even before the legislators likely kick in a few more bucks to the school districts, Buffalo was already looking at an aid proposal, up nearly 9%. With the superintendent scheduling the formal start of the school system budget process for Tuesday, he said there will be money for more staffers to continue efforts to help kids recover from the long COVID lockdown.
"We're now looking at a five-six-year plan to get these kids out of COVID, back up online and progressing," Cash said.
He said it wasn't one of those budget years of disastrous cuts.
"It wasn't a grapple thing. It wasn't feeling like we have to now go and give up our first child in order to get something for the kids," Cash said. "And the questions were very good, very good tone and positive energy in the hearing."
Buffalo is extraordinarily dependent on state aid because the school system has no ability to levy property taxes, as suburban schools can. Eventually, the budget will be much larger as federal aid comes in and the final state budget due April 1 sets the base aid, perhaps totaling over 1 billion.
"If the aid comes in, according to the projections which we have had earlier, then we've already prepared for it," Cash said. "So it's going to help us do all of those things to support the social-emotional learning that we know is so important: more guidance counselors, more social workers, more school psychologists, family support specialists."
The Buffalo School Board had also scheduled an executive session, but chose to skip that and vote openly on ending yet another fight with charter schools.
The district had come close to shutting down Enterprise and Westminister charter schools by refusing to renew charters. Wednesday evening, the board approved a settlement that keeps the two schools open.
District General Counsel Nathaniel Kuzma said the settlement is detailed.
"What the settlement agreement is, is they're going to get a renewal, with conditions," Kuzma said. "So they will stay open for an additional two years, beyond this year, with some rigorous but achievable academic targets that they must reach in order to apply for another renewal beyond that point."
Kuzma said there also will be close supervision.
"At their executive level, including our board having the ability to appoint an individual to their board. Recruiting and retaining more ELL and special education students," he said. "So we really feel that this settlement is a win-win both for the charter schools and for our board because our true intent here is to hold them accountable."
The board also sent to committee plans for staff bonuses for working through COVID and proposals to pay parents to drive kids to school because of major problems in school busing, but then approved a plan to put more high school kids on Metro Bus.