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Teachers union considers lawsuit

Buffalo Public Schools website.

The Buffalo Public School system has only weeks to resolve two major problems: requests to transfer students out of failing schools and an order from the State Education Department to let students from Lafayette and East High School take vocational classes from suburban BOCES. While some progress is being made, the teachers union is considering a lawsuit.

Buffalo Teachers Federation President Phil Rumore says the union is working with its statewide affiliate on a possible lawsuit against State Education Commissioner John King. He says at issue is the state’s order to send students to BOCES and the withholding of funds to Buffalo schools.

“(A) as to whether the commissioner had the authority to order the Buffalo schools to send their kids to BOCES and (B) as to whether his decision to withhold money was arbitrary and capricious based on the fact that all of our students and our teachers were working very hard to turn those schools around and there were a lot of factors not taken into consideration,” Rumore said.

There are millions of dollars at stake in school improvement grants rejected by the state. The district may also be forced to pay for East and Lafayette students to attend BOCES vocational programs. 

District Parent Coordinating Council President Sam Radford says the solution to the high school situation is pretty clear.

“They are going to have to use BOCES. I think they are going to do that. They are going to use district resources for the first year and the following year they are going to apply for School Improvement Grants. I don't think there are any more options they can consider other than that and I think that's pretty straightforward,” Radford said.

Radford says parents in the two schools seem excited about the BOCES opportunities for their kids, but are sorry those choices aren't available within the city.

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.