A lengthy budget discussion turned into a shouting match over charter schools at Wednesday's Buffalo School Board meeting.
The topic of charter schools came up in CFO Geoffrey Pritchard's PowerPoint presentation explaining the district's $916 million budget. Pritchard said $130 million is being passed through to the expanding array of charters.
That procedure is mandated by Albany. The school system has no control. However, it brought a blast from Board Member Jennifer Mecozzi and return blast from Board Member Larry Quinn.
"There is no narrative," Mecozzi said.
"I'm not sure there is no narrative," Quinn, a longtime supporter of charter schools, returned. "I believe that parents who have selected a charter school have decided that they believe that's the best educational opportunity for their child and they might be right."
There are a lot of students involved, with district public schools having 31,000 students and charters having 8,700 - and more expected next year. State law requires the district to send on to each charter the money each student gets as a public school student, although the charters are not required to explain how they spend their money.
Board Member Paulette Woods said too much money is going to charters.
"We got $15 million in increased state aid and we had to give up almost 10 of it for the 9,000 students in the charters while we have 34,000," Woods said. "The bottom line is the state has mandated that we have to give the majority of our state aid increase to a tenth of our students. It is unfair. It is truly unfair."
"Every student, they count," Mecozzi said, "but when I look at our budget and I realize how much money is going into charter schools, and a lot of the charter schools narrative is that the Buffalo Public Schools are not performing up to par, 'Come here, join our schools.'"
A charter school that does not perform up to Albany standards can be shut down, as Oracle Charter is being shut down.