Byron Brown, Crystal Peoples, Antoine Thompson, and Buffalo Students First
by Buck Quigley - posted 2:39 pm, May 3, 2009
What’s the message Buffalo Students First is sending to voters this weekend promoting the incumbent candidates, three days before the school board election? That depends on where you live in the city of Buffalo.
First, here’s a mailer sent by Buffalo Students First to voters in the 144th Assembly District, represented by Sam Hoyt. The message on the back begins: “The politicians and special interest groups want to take over control of our schools. We can’t allow that to happen…”
If that’s the case, what does one make of this mailer sent by Buffalo Students First to city voters in the 141st Assembly District, represented by Crystal Peoples? Voters there, primarily African-American, received an open letter from Mayor Byron Brown, Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples, and State Senator Antoine Thompson, endorsing the incumbent slate of Florence Johnson, Catherine Collins, and Chris Jacobs.
Are Brown, Peoples, and Thompson not politicians? And is Buffalo Students First and/or the Buffalo Niagara Partnership not a special interest group? News Flash: THE POLITICIANS AND SPECIAL INTERESTS CURRENTLY HAVE CONTROL OF OUR SCHOOLS. And it’s clear they will spend a great deal of money in the hope of keeping it that way.
The blatant hypocrisy displayed by Buffalo Students First in sponsoring these two divergent messages should be offensive to every voter in the city. But there’s plenty of shame to go around here. Why would Brown, Peoples, and Thompson lend their support to a slate of candidates in an election that is held in May for the express reason that it should not be political?
And why would the Buffalo Niagara Partnership hide behind a phony name like Buffalo Students First, when it is clear that they are directly involved in the funding of this campaign that preaches two different messages to urban voters based largely on the color of their skin? The evidence of their involvement is here in this one-page financial disclosure form, signed by Glenn Aronow, Director of Government Relations for the Buffalo Niagara Partnership.
Then there’s Saturday’s Buffalo News, which contains this editorial endorsing the incumbents.
(While writing this blog, I have received a report from a resident of University Heights that all the cars in the neighborhood had anonymous flyers on the windshield this morning, referencing this Buffalo News endorsement of the status quo.)
“Ideally, a School Board member encompasses a strong work ethic, willingness to do the necessary homework and the ability to ask the right questions and to come to a fair decision without undue political influence. Florence Johnson, Christopher Jacobs and Catherine Collins have done so, and deserve to continue in their current roles,” the News editorial staff opines, apparently with a straight face.
Is it not interesting that their very own columnists have offered contrary opinions? Consider Rod Watson’s May 29, 2008 article that begins, “Despite the many things the Buffalo Board of Education is probing in the McKinley High School fiasco, one critical issue has yet to surface: What to do about board members who appear to lie to the public?”
Or Donn Esmonde, who wrote on April 16, 2008: “Put the pieces together, and you get a picture of what happens when a school system is run by the integrity-lite and the ethically challenged. They all will tell you that nothing matters more than the kids. Amazingly, their noses do not grow an inch when they say it.”
Watson summed it up also on July 3, 2008 in an article entitled: School Board lacks guts to do right thing. He begins: “Of all the reforms possible in the wake of the McKinley High School fiasco, the most obvious has yet to be mentioned: Students need a union. And lobbyists. And bigger allowances, so they can make campaign contributions to buy off legislators who write the laws that Buffalo school officials are hiding behind to avoid holding anyone accountable.”
“You can thank the unions and their grip on Albany’s legislative machine, as well as their intimidating ability to affect a School Board candidacy in elections with miniscule turnouts,” he continues.
Shall we also thank the editorial staff of his paper for their ability to try to do the very same thing?
Tuesday’s school board election will be decided by city voters. It should be decided by the parents of children who attend classes every day in the city of Buffalo, and by every city resident who recognizes the critical importance of improving the quality of education for the children of our impoverished city—where only 46% of students graduate from high school in four years—a number that has worsened over the past five years under the the questionable guidance of the incumbent at-large school board members, who now seek an additional five years to finish the job.
Their biggest success, they claim, is a $1 billion “state of the art” school renovation project that is so hopelessly out of touch with progressive green-building standards that the electrical bills to run the buildings will be an albatross around taxpayers’ necks long into the future.
The title of the Buffalo News editorial nails it on the head: Tuesday’s Buffalo school board vote will determine future of district.
Wouldn’t it be a surprising miracle if, when voters step into the booth this Tuesday, May 5, they remember the little voices of the children who deserve so much better, and forget the propaganda dumped upon them by business people from Niagara Falls and the suburbs, who would have us believe that things are just fine in the Buffalo Schools?