Raising concerns on how Buffalo Schools spend rescue dollars

"It's a sham — it’s smoke and mirrors"
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Posted at 5:15 PM, Jul 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-27 17:41:04-04

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — Some community stakeholders are raising their concerns about how the Buffalo Public School District wants to spend nearly $300-million in federal relief funds.

Members of the Buffalo Equity Coalition testified virtually before Buffalo Common Council Education Committee.

Members of the Buffalo Equity Coalition sounding off as they testified at a Buffalo Common Council Education Committee public hearing Tuesday.

“But it's a sham — it’s smoke and mirrors,” declared Bishop Michael Badger, Urban Think Tank.

“And what we have in front of us, with the district's plan, is the great Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity,” remarked Pastor Kinzer Pointer.

Pastor Kinzer Pointer testifying at hearing.

One by one members of the coalition testified, some raising concerns about how the city school district will spend American Rescue funds.

July 8, Buffalo Schools Superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash issued a proposal calling it a “sea change” for the district and a chance to get students back on track following learning loss from COVID.

Buffalo Schools Superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash holds up proposed plan.

It includes spending 60-percent of the funds on academics, helping students catch up, relying on acceleration, not remediation. In other words, moving a student into the next grade level.

Bishop Michael Badger, Urban Think Tank, testifying Tuesday.

“But we know the last time that children were tested by the state in 2019, 75-percent of our children were one to three grades behind,” Badger testified.

“I could not disagree with you more sir, though, on the value of acceleration for all children,” stated Will Keresztes, district leader.

Keresztes attended the hearing on behalf of the district to respond to concerns and to clarify any potential misinformation.

Will Keresztes, district leader, appeared at hearing Tuesday.

“Acceleration doesn't mean you take a second grader and you move them to third grade arbitrarily or fourth grade and you move them to fifth grade unprepared. It means you work with a student where they are and rather than focus on remediation only,” Keresztes explained.

The coalition is made up of community stakeholders, pastors, parents, educators and even students, like Tameshia Walker — the former student representative on the Buffalo School Board.

Walker says the district can't help students if student voices are not heard.

Tameshia Walker — the former student representative on the Buffalo School Board.

“Because one the things I went through this year was being silenced and feeling like I didn't have that voice or wasn't capable of speaking up,” Walker revealed.

Keresztez told those who testified and Buffalo Council members he took notes on all the testimony and it will be included in stakeholder feedback.

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Outside Buffalo Public School

The draft still needs approval from the school board. The district must spend the rescue dollars by the end of September 2024.

The diverse group of community stakeholders say it wants more inclusion and meaningful engagement to make wholesale changes for city school students to be successful in the future.