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Buffalo Students First: What is it?

partnershipLast Friday, we reported about the petition challenges submitted against every single challenger in the May 5 Buffalo School Board election. Thanks to a comment on our blog from Chet Morton, we learned that Glenn Aronow—the man who notarized all the challenges—is the Director of Government Relations for the Buffalo Niagara Partnership (pictured).

By Monday, I was on the phone with Aronow, asking if he could explain why a group known as Buffalo Students First shares the same address (665 Main Street, Suite 200) as the Partnership. Buffalo Students First put out this slick mailer endorsing Catherine Collins, Chris Jacobs, and Florence Johnson for the at-large seats on the board.

He explained that he was in Washington, DC, and couldn’t talk. I asked him again on Tuesday. He said he’d call me when he got back to town. I called him Thursday, and he told me not to call him on his cell phone anymore. He said he was at a lunch, and couldn’t talk to me. He reminded me that he told me he’d call me when he returned from DC. I asked him if he was in town. He said yes. I pointed out that he didn’t call me.

Aronow then called back later, and said he’d send me an email response to my questions: What is Buffalo Students First, and why all the aggressive challenges to every school board candidate who is not an incumbent?

Here is his reply:

Buffalo Niagara Partnership:

The Partnership, which is made up of approximately 2,500 local employers, has been involved in elections at all levels of government for many years. Our organization has supported races for Buffalo Public School board for approximately 10 years. We’re a regional organization, but understand Buffalo is at our region’s core  — and the success or failure of the Buffalo Public Schools is directly linked to how the city fares. Improving public education is a also priority of our members for a specific business reason: they need a workforce that is prepared to compete both locally and in a global economy. The Partnership strongly supports candidates Chris Jacobs, Florence Johnson and Dr. Catherine Collins. We’ve helped raise money for these candidates and have donated some staff time to assist with the campaigns, and the efforts of the coalition, Buffalo Students First.

Buffalo Students First:

The Buffalo Niagara Partnership is a supporter of Buffalo Students First, which is a coaltion of businesses, community organizations and stakeholders, and school choice advocates that support progressive reforms and policies in educating Buffalo school children.  Buffalo Students First advocates for and supports programs and policies that improve how education is provided in Buffalo’s Public Schools. Buffalo Students First is supporting candidates in this year’s school board election that share the coalition’s vision for education and putting Buffalo school children first.
Petition challenge:

There are very clear laws and procedures to be a candidate for any elective office in New York State, including Buffalo school board. Obtaining the required amount of vaild petition signatures is a basic legal requirement to get on the ballot that all candidates are fully aware of. When there is overwhelmingly clear evidence that signatures are not vaild or obtained in a fraudulent manner, those signatures should be challenged, and that’s what we did. To ensure fair elections, candidates should and must abide by the same laws and procedures.

Glenn Aronow
Director, Government Relations
Buffalo Niagara Partnership
665 Main Street, Suite 200
Buffalo, NY 14203-1487
P: (716) 852-7100, ext. 236
C: (716) 628-1367
F: (716) 852-2761

The Partnership extends its thanks to the member businesses in its Leadership Circle. These companies represent the Partnership’s most significant financial supporters.

They also advocate squashing the campaigns of any and all challengers. Click here to see the specific objections Herbert Bellamy filed against candidate Fred Yellen, notarized by Aronow.

But what is Buffalo Students First? There don’t appear to be any records at the state or county level showing that it’s a political committee, or an LLC, and there’s no DBA or assumed name certificate on file. Are there any actual students involved with Buffalo Students First? Or is it just a surreptitiously named gang of “businesses, community organizations and stakeholders” throwing their money around to advance the status quo of a struggling urban school district with a disastrous dropout rate in the third poorest city in America? Does every member of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership want to stand up and take credit for stifling this opportunity for the community to select a change when they step into the voting booth?

This morning, school board challenger Bryon McIntyre and community activist Peter A. Reese filed a complaint with the Erie County Board of Elections, requesting an investigation into the involvement of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership through Buffalo Students First in the ongoing Buffalo School Board Election process. The election is May 5.

  • AICPplanner

    I was looking at the Partnerships Form 990 and they don’t seperate their taxabel political expenditures from their non-taxable expenditures. The Partnership should know better than this. They could lose their 501c6 status and be in trouble with the IRS for tax evasion. The IRS needs to audit the Partnership and make sure they are paying their taxes. The partnership also needs to clearly discluse their political expenditures to the public.


  • Donald

    It’s not surprising at all that there would be status quo agenda-pushing crap like this going on. Think “status quo: THINK Florence Johnson, Collins the nitwit and Jacobs the poo-boy. Please. iT’s so insulting that they in a way have won, for we are all defeated, beaten into submission through tactics similar to those as waterboarding. Teachers are tired. There is no alternative program. No one is asking why or what happened to the $7 million that went down the rat hole in Williams’ home turf to 4 friends…The district is at %40 spec ed rate, they have revolving doors for the bad kids, cycling them through the High schools that are still general admission (code word for spec. ed farmland)…it’s a matter of time before something big happens, something bad, then the district will point fingers at the police who they ignore and demand things from instead of discuss and collaborate with, they will point the blame at teachers who are tired of hearing the alarm bells ring day in and day out. Shame of the Nation, Kozol’s book on textbook racism and life-ruining education tactics for the poor has come to fruition here in our little city, the city that didn’t.

  • Peter A Reese

    Funny, Education Law Section 1528(c) seems to state:

    (c) No person or persons shall make expenditures on behalf of a
    candidate without his or her approval unless such person or persons
    files a sworn statement with the clerk and commissioner stating that the
    candidate did not approve such expenditure. Such expenditure shall be
    limited to twenty-five dollars and shall not be included in determining
    the five hundred dollars as set forth in paragraph (a) of this

    Does this law apply to the Partnership and Buffalo Students First (BSF), or are they exempt from all laws? Have the incumbent candidates approved BSF expenditures? Has the BSF spent more than $25? Where is the BSF campaign finance report filing? Who are the “students” who make up this group? Could this just be a surreptitious attempt by the Partnership to control the Buffalo School Board by using a fake entity with an intentionally deceptive name? So many questions!

    BTW the Partnership has an active political action committee named Committee for Economic Growth. I believe they have supported some of Steve Pigeon’s activities in county legislative races in the past.

    665 Main Street Suite 200
    Buffalo NY 14203-1487 Status = ACTIVE

  • jamie

    STATUS QUO : Catherine Collins, Florence and Jacobs. Although out of the 3, Jacobs wanted to wait before embezzling the $7 million for the Alternative Failure, but these girls were ready to spend, spend spend, no questions asked! We couldn’t ask for more inept, out of touch, crooked, selfish idiots on the baord. Collins, has lost her mind, FloJo is a dinosaur, a useless one at that. At least Jacobs had a public break up with the King James, remember, his stomach hurt when Williams was going to Memphis. He’s been hurt ever since…

  • Harold

    This sorority has got to broken up like a gang of thugs. Evans, the one who substains, remember now she had a harrassment charge filed against her by Cahill for screaming and threatening, following her in to the elevator and the bathroom in City Hall. Another example of setting the standard for excellence, just like Catherine Collins stares at the ceiling and yawns aloud while parents are talking at the podium. Florence is sstill trying to figure out how to use her free blackberry but is too afraid to ask.

  • reflip

    Are BPS teachers eligible to vote in the school board election?

  • Chet Morton

    One major problem with what Aronow did is the attempt at secrecy. Based on his e-mail response, I presume that the Partnership (or its CEO) has seemingly endorsed and approved of Aronow’s actions. But they were not above-board on their actions. They have apparently created a shell entity – Buffalo Students First – to hide or mask their support of the existing BPS majority board and opposition to new challengers.

    It is not at all surprising that the Partnership is backing Chris Jacobs. What is surprising is the support for the others. Do we take away from this, then, that they support the current state of the BPS and how the board and Dr. Williams are running the Buffalo Public Schools?

    If so, I sense another letter to the editor or opinion column from Carl Paladino weighing in on this.

    Peter Reese and Byron McIntyre are right-on in their inquiry and probing on this.

  • james

    The Buffalo News refuses to print Paladino anymore. THe only thing the Buffalo News is good for is the bottom of a kitty litter box

  • Dave

    BPS teachers are eligible to vote in school board elections if they are registered voters residing in the city.