Fix the Fundamentals

A Buffalo News story reveals one of the main reasons why the city of Buffalo bleeds people – it’s the schools, stupid.

That’s not to say other school districts are some sort of paradise, but the experiences the families in that article are neither new nor reasonable. On the one hand, you have parents who agonize over completing an application process and receiving snail mail regarding whether their kids will attend a particular school, and on the other hand you have parents who are ambivalent enough about school that their kids have half a school year’s worth of unexcused absences

The dysfunction of the Buffalo school system, and the tea party push to defund education nationwide couldn’t be more disheartening or damaging.  When compared to the rest of the world, we’re average – not the best. Time was, that’d have been unacceptable. Budget cuts, larger class sizes, and eliminating curricula isn’t going to change that.  

The school system shouldn’t be a 50’s era byzantine bureaucratic disaster, and the categorization of failing and not failing schools doesn’t do a damn thing for everyone. Every school should do well, and every kid deserves a chance – even if their parents don’t care

In an ideal world, Erie County would have a consolidated and unified school district, pooling resources from all communities to ensure an efficient path to an excellent education – if regionalism works for other government services (which I think it does), it works for schools, too. That doesn’t mean a kid from Springville will be bused to Tonawanda, but it does mean you don’t have as many labor contracts and administrative entities as you do municipal entities. This means you can do more with a larger revenue pool.  Every kid in WNY deserves the same shot at a bright future. 


  • All those Mommies and no Dads. Without a structured family, it like running a 100 yard dash with your foot in a bucket. No matter how you cut the take, take away all the smoke & mirrors, that is the problem. The kid is going to loose the race. There is no incentive to succed, no disipline, no nothing. Good Luck. The reasons that I stayed in the Navy (25 years active duty) until my son graduated was the excellent high school he was in (in High Wycham, England) & I knew that I was returning to Buffalo. I did not want him stuck in some crappy enviroment.

  • I would prefer not only that kids from Springville not be bused to Tonawanda, but that dollars from Springville not be bused to Phil Rumore or spent on face lifts and liposuction.

    Buffalo Schools have much house to clean before they earn the privilege of being fiscally connected to the rest of the region.

  • There is no way in hell that we outside of Buffalo would EVER let the assholes in that city dictate to us how to run anything . We don’t live in the city because we don’t want to . The schools have been a joke since I went to Lafayette in the 60s . NO to Buffalo schools, zoning boards, corrupt police, developers, whiney mommies and all the crap we chose to move away from . All of you Kevin Gaughn types STAY THE HELL AWAY .

  • Black Rock Lifer

    School performance is directly related to the demographic of the district. We need to address the poverty that is concentrated in the city schools before we can expect real change. That said, Buffalo Public Schools offer many choices and continues to produce some of the best and brightest in the region. I have sent 4 children to Buffalo Public and all have done well. Those that write off city schools are uninformed or simply caught up in their own bitterness and hostility towards the city.

  • Big talk from a schmuck who parks his ass in the most affluent, lily-white suburb in WNY. Piss off, Bedenko.

  • Black Rock Lifer

    See the comment above by “c” to illustrate the ignorance and arrogance of many of our “neighbors”. This is the greatest challenge here in WNY, the parochialism, contempt, and lack of decency by many in the WNY “community”.

  • I’m not sure why anyone still believes giving any organization monopoly power over a single industry will lead to any sort of success.

    How much do we spend per pupil in Buffalo right now? I’d be willing to be it’s more (again, per pupil) than anywhere else in Erie County. It’s sure as hell more than any private school (parochial or otherwise).

    It’s heartbreaking to see parents half to put the future success of their kids on the roll of the dice in some pathetic lottery. It just kills me to see brains going to waste like that.

    Give poor parents the chance to get their kids out and they’ll care. How do you do that? 1:1 tax credit for education. It saves money, leaves more money (per pupil) for the kids who are ‘left behind’ in the public schools, and would drive a boom in the education industry in the area.

    It’s sure as hell not going to happen by throwing more money at the problem. Public education = the most critical thing we can do. Current public school system = the absolute worst way to go about doing it.

  • OMGZ them Minorities will affect the innocents minds of our sweet snowflakes from Clarence and OP

  • letslightacandle

    Out in the ‘burbs, we celebrate kids’ achievements in our weekly newspapers. If Susie Smith made the dean’s list in her college, odds are you’ll see it in your Hamburg Bee or Niagara Gazette or other weekly newspaper. The HS and MS school plays and musicals get coverage, too.

    I was thinking about that as we’ve been sending out dean’s list announcements from this Local College. We can get the news out to every little town in the state, but Buffalo (and Rochester, and NYC) kids are SOL. It would be great if some widely read Buffalo paper would run the names of kids who graduated from a Buffalo high school, went on to college, and made the dean’s list there.

  • I want to party with Jim. He seems sophisticated, witty and well educated.

  • Black Rock Lifer

    @Jesse- Actually Buffalo Public is 31st in spending per pupil according to Business First. The cost per pupil in Buffalo is also greatly inflated by the large number of special education students. As for private schools, both Nichols and the Park School cost more per pupil than Buffalo Public. Finally, the jury is still out on charters, even with the advatage of involved parents there is no evidence they perform better than their public counterparts.

  • I love living in Buffalo. I have a beautiful home on the 1st block of Niagara Falls Blvd. (On the “bricks”.) I live 6 houses from the home that my 91 y/o mother has lived in since 1949. I lived all over the world & I still returned to “home”. Now after all that wine & roses & sweet music I just put out, Buffalo public schools are the city’s biggest shame.They plain suck. It’s not all about the demographics. How can you fix that, 1 to 1 tax credit for education. But how do you fix the entitlement mind set of Phil Rumore and Co.? Beats the hell out of me. Those poor kids are getting the shaft.

  • Black Rock Lifer

    @letslightacandle- The Riverside Review is our local paper here in Black Rock-Riverside. The paper does indeed note the achievements of local kids on a regular basis.

  • *effect, sorry I was just caught up in the moment

  • Contrary to what one might expect, I love “c”‘s comment, because it reveals the fundamental dynamic of this situation. Folks who feel like “c” does are likely to move out of the city, if they have the means to do so (but not the top-10 means or top-10 smarts to get in the door of Nichols, City Honors, etc.). And in the process, leaving behind an increasingly concentrated population of those who don’t have choices.

    The main reason I support charter schools is not that they’re a bullet either magic or silver, but because they provide choice and options for at least some of those who otherwise would be left in the unenviable position of being utterly dependent on BPS central office, Phil Rumore, and the like for the futures of their kids.

    While I support the goal, without a strategy for getting from here to there is could be decades if ever that we see anything like a county-wide school district. In the meantime, if the only option we give folks with means is to leave the city for the good of their children…well, then, we’ll continue getting what we’ve been getting. Folks with means leaving the city.

  • Please don’t discount the fact that the cost per pupil is high in the Buffalo district because of the vast number of aging facilities in the district. Biolers ain’t cheap, nor is asbestos and lead abatement everytime you touch a new job. Suburban schools are typically newer and in better shape.

  • We moved out of Buffalo and just barely over the border into Amherst.
    When: on my son’s first birthday.
    Why? Schools.

    Amherst may not be the best, but it provided what we were looking for- old homes, established neighborhoods, diversity (especially at my son’s elementary school), and a decent education. As a former teacher I can make sure that my children get the support they need to blossom beyond the limitations of Amherst.

    If Amherst disappoints, we are going to go back into the city, find a small little house, and pay next to nothing in taxes compared to Amherst, and go private all the way. All my friends who go the BPS way only do so if they get Olmstead or Elmwood Village. Otherwise, it is private. No discussion. If they can get one of those two schools, the figure they don’t have to worry until it is time for HS.

    So yeah, it is the schools dummy! Probably more than half are basically holding pens or advanced day care centers for the amount of education that goes on in them- due to a myriad of issues (some parents, Phil Rumore, some teachers, school board idiocy, anti learning culture, etc.).

    At the same time, while volunteering in my son’s class today, I said to his teacher, “X is as smart as a whip. He has natural leadership abilities. I hope he gets enough support at home to become something great.” X is one of about 50% of kids living below poverty level in my son’s class. The teacher smiled at me and said, “Yeah, I worry about his future. He’s got so much good. I hope he can survive his life and escape.”

    So these problems are evident in other places, but not to the same degree.

  • Of course it’s difficult to find the total cost per year, but just on easily found public numbers (which means this is going to lower in all cases), Buffalo spends $23,500 per kid according to

    East Aurora ( plus spends $15000.

    Hard to argue with the results. Hard to argue that more money is necessary. Hard to argue that the public schools as built today are worthwhile, particularly in the inner-city.

  • How much do we spend per pupil in Buffalo right now?

    That’s shown here, but in a strange-looking chart (need to zoom out to see whole thing, or scroll to right – at least in my browser):

    According to that, Jesse’s guess of Buffalo spending the most in Erie Co looks correct (and also higher than any in Niagara Co).

    Per-pupil spending for 2010-11:
    Akron $17,034
    Alden $17,370
    Amherst $15,128
    Buffalo $22,063
    Cheektowaga $16,487
    Cheek/Maryvale $15,379
    Cheek/Sloan $19,977
    Clarence $14,173
    Cleveland Hill $18,958
    Depew $17,674
    East Aurora $14,646
    That’s the first few alphabetically in Erie Co.

    That chart also shows per-pupil spending growth in all districts since 2005 (highest jump was BPS at 46%), along with enrollment each district’s enrollment changes since then (BPS down 4%).

    I don’t know why it would be if Business First says Buffalo is 31st in spending (Black Rock Lifer’s comment) among WNY districts while the Buffalo News says Buffalo is 1st in Erie and Niagara. It would be surprising if there’s really 30 districts in WNY but not in Erie or Niagara counties that spend more per-pupil than Buffalo. Or perhaps the list Black Rock Lifer looked at is a few years old and didn’t yet reflect Buffalo’s spending jump since 2005.

  • Give it a rest I don’t need the privilege of paying high taxes to hope my kid gets into one high school or pay for private schools. Shit the only thing my taxes of value to me in the city would pay for is police. The burbs rule for all the reasons the idiots in this paper plead for urban renewal. I am safe and happy in my little Burb and if I want the city it takes 15 minutes and I am downtown, no hassles and out at the end of the night.

    Stupid arguments!

  • Black Rock Lifer

    See the comment by ‘Claude’ for another example of the ignorance, arrogance, and contempt that so many seem to have for the City of Buffalo. WNY is greatly challenged by the myopic vision of Claude and those with similar attitudes. We will never address the regions problems or move forward if we allow this hate and stupidity to continue to shape our public policy.

  • Homeschooling is steadily increasing. Could it be that the public education system is an abject failure?

  • Black Rock Lifer

    Our public education system is simply a reflection of the great disparity in wealth that has come to define America and certainly Buffalo. There are rare exceptions but school performance is generally directly related to the wealth of the district. Poverty creates great challenges that no school, teacher, or administrator can fully address. It is a chicken and egg argument, fix poverty/fix schools.

  • Black Rock Lifer

    @Michael Rebmann- Could it be that the far right tea party stuff that your name links to was an abject failure?

  • the far right tea party stuff that your name links to

    The notion of corporatist redneckocracy was a bad idea in 2010 and it’s a bad idea now.

  • I owe nothing to the a city, it is a thing like a suburb or true country living, I am lucky, as are those who choose to live in a city, that I have the opportunity to decide what type of life I wish to live.
    If you want to live in the city than fine live there and fix it, but stop pointing fingers at people who do not wish to live there as if that is the reason the place is failing.
    This paper has a constant druming that suburb living is the cause of all our woes in life, but that is just another excuse.
    And by the way I live in East Aurora, we have one hell of a growing campus that works in glass, metals and wood that people come from around the world to visit, so I guess the burbs are not devoid of art and culture. I also would add that the high school, the reasonably priced one, has a tremendous art program that covers all four years. That grew because people in the community wanted that program dn supported it.
    Good luck with the city, hope it works out for your Blak Rock Lifer and others, but your never ending bad mouthing of the burbs and that we need to save you is not energy well spent.

  • Black Rock Lifer

    @Buffalo Blows- Where is the “bad mouthing of the suburbs”? All I see is the usual city bashing. We in the city do not “need the suburbs to save us” you need us more than we need you. Buffalo is the heart and soul of WNY and generated the wealth that made the suburbs possible. Buffalo is like the elderly grandfather of the region and deserves respect, not derision. Buffalo has been undermined by public policy decisions that enabled suburban developement and decimated once stable old city neighborhoods. Finally, the poor have been concentrated in the city by design, not chance. Suburban governments and residents are not without blame in perpetuating the class and race division that holds us all back and limits the WNY community.

  • This paper regularly has articls bad mouthing the burbs, and again you fix your own problems. Bitching about he burbs is a weak lame excuse, for people like you who want to blame everyone else for their problems.

    I like my burb and will stay there and I ask othing of you in return.

    Good luck.

  • @BlackRockLifer, what you describe as wealth disparity is actually a lack of personal responsibility fostered by government dependency programs. That includes government mandates/regulations that undermine would should be parental responsibility.

  • So when the barons of industry outsource American jobs, we can blame the workers and the gubmit. Roger that.

    This is why history will judge the teabagger movement accurately.

  • Bbill, you seem to have an quite bagging.

  • have an quite bagging.


  • Black Rock Lifer

    @Buffalo Blows- No one asked for your help, I don’t have any “problems” but have been quite successful here in Buffalo. I simply pointed out the well documented suburban centric policies that enabled sprawl while greatly damaging cities. I realize you are probably not capable of making it in Buffalo so your choice is best for you. That said since you “ask nothing in return” please stay out of my city, don’t seek employment here, don’t attend events here, and don’t visit our restaurants or bars. In other words stay in your lame, boring, bland little world, we won’t miss you.

  • Black Rock Lifer

    @Michael Rebman- Your ideology has been proven to be not only wrong but a disaster for America. It is the concentration of wealth and the distortion of our political process by the rich that has divided and weakened America.

  • No black rock you need me to work in the city because what I do takes a lot of education and experience and that is why I am in WNY at all, you benefit from the taxes that company pays to be in buffalo. So buck up there buddy and throw one back at your local dive as you piss and moan about the state of the city. I will send my kids to good schools out here in the burbs, saving money for heir college which will not be here, and then when I retire I will be heading south to the warm and lower tax regions.

    Why? Because I can dick wad.

  • Black Rock Lifer

    So you do need my city, your very livelihood depends on it. Typical arrogance and disrespect for the hand that feeds you. You take a lot more than you give to my city, stop pretending you are somehow an asset. Your “company’s taxes” are a pittance in the big picture and obviously have no impact as a “benefit” to me personally. I do frequent some of the nicest bars here in Black Rock but I don’t “piss and moan about the state of the city”. Instead, I have worked for over 30 years to improve my neighborhood and my city. As for schools, I sent my kids to some of the best in WNY, right here in Buffalo. Their success is a result of having that opportunity as well as their experience here in Black Rock. BTW, when compared to peers of the same economic standing city children outperform both suburban and rural children.

  • Jonathan Wellinton-Fidrych III

    Just where is this so-called Black Rock? Is it anywhere near the Club?

  • To answer your question jonathan it is a architecturally devoid neighborhood that should be pulled down and it’s inhabitants shipped to greener pastures.

  • Black Rock Lifer

    @Jonathan-Black Rock is located in the northwest corner of the city and is Buffalo’s oldest neighborhood. Black Rock was voted the citys most up and coming neighborhood by Artvoice.

  • Black Rock Lifer

    @Blows- Black Rock is one of the most historic areas of WNY with an outstanding collection of architecturally significant buildings and homes. The National Register Market Square Historic District contains rare examples of Federal style homes as well as examples of Greek Revival, Italianate, Gothic Revival, Romanesque, and Arts and Crafts. Your comments continue to show just how uniformed and ignorant you are of Buffalo and Black Rock, you really need to expand your narrow horizens.

  • because what I do takes a lot of education and experience

    What you do here doesn’t really require much education or experience; anyone can whine, call names, troll. Those are entry level tasks. Your spelling is excellent, though maybe a little remedial apostophe training could be called for.

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