by Alan Bedenko (@BuffaloPundit) - posted 6:44 am, October 22, 2014
I’m skeptical of charter schools because I believe that they’re being used as an effort to abolish public education in the United States. The only exception is that instance where they’re used in a limited way to save kids from failing public schools. Since Buffalo has its share of failing schools, I’m not going to begrudge parents finding a way to get their kids a decent education by any means necessary. You only get one chance, after all.
The Buffalo News details the ways in which Buffalo School Board member Carl Paladino has profited from the establishment of charters in Buffalo – in fact, he’s the sole investor in some of them. It would be easy (and tempting) to dismiss all of this as Paladino personally profiting (which he does) off of charter schools, and demanding his resignation or recusal from anything having to do with charter schools in the Buffalo system.
But the real issue isn’t whether Paladino is profiting off of charter schools – past, present, and future – the issue is that this situation is novel enough that the school board needs to clarify its conflict of interest rules. It’s not enough to just let Paladino subjectively pick and choose when there is or isn’t a conflict of interest, there need to be objective and uniformly applicable rules, and clearly defined instructions. It should not be left up to Paladino – a thuggish character who yells obscenities at strangers on the street, like a vagrant.
“…I’m totally insane.” – Carl Paladino
As toxic, hateful, and repulsive as I find Paladino as a person and a political entity, I am conflicted about what he’s doing on the school board. I agree with his conclusion about its dysfunction and desperate need for improvement and accountability, and I think some of what he’s done has been positive, bold, and overdue. But the school board needs to be the one forcing Paladino to recuse himself – not only from any vote involving any of the charters in which he currently has a financial stake, but also those in which he has a potential financial stake. He needs to avoid not just actual impropriety, but the appearance of impropriety.
That means that, while Ellicott Development may be a closely-held private company that isn’t mandated to release financial information, it should live up to Paladino’s political demands that others be transparent and make available all personal and corporate financial information as it relates to public charter schools. Paladino would demand no less of anyone else, if the shoe was on the other foot. Showing this information to a few reporters from the Buffalo News is not transparency – that’s Paladino taking advantage of the public trust.
In the meantime, he’s controlling a majority on that board, and he’s effectively dictating the school board’s agenda and actions. He’s got his wish with respect to the removal of Pamela Brown. So, he’s all out of excuses, and it would be idiotic to hope he fails. I hope he succeeds and that the Buffalo school system becomes a nationwide model for turning around a troubled urban district. Transparency, ethics, and accountability: shouldn’t Paladino be held to the standards he selectively demands of others?
I guess we’ll see how that hopey – changey thing works out for everyone.