Buffalo charter schools call for equity in funding

Nov 28, 2017

The Buffalo charter school community gathered together Tuesday at the Aloma Johnson Charter School calling for equitable funding.  WBFO's senior reporter Eileen Buckley says the city charter schools want their fair share.

Northeast Charter Schools Network advocacy manager Duncan Kirkwood.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

Students representing several area city charter schools joined forces – some dressed in super heroes outfits as they encourage elected  officials to be their 'heroes' and fight for new funding.

“Our school uses most of our field trip money to go toward other stuff they need to take care of during the school year – so like bills, mortgage – all that stuff is going toward that – so we don’t get all of our good field trips,” stated Curtis Samuel, 8th grader at Elmwood Village Charter School.          

Elmwood Village teachers Daniel Brink-Washington and Ebony Green noted students are taught about the realities of the lack of funding city charters.    

Curtis Samuel, 8th grader at Elmwood Village Charter School.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

“They ask questions. They read and we do tell them the truth. We do need more funding to do a lot of the things that’s necessary to do,” remarked Green.     

“We don’t shy away from sharing the fact that schools run on budgets that there’s, in this case, an issue of equity in terms of funding for charter schools and it is one of the great education reform issues of our time,” Brink-Washington replied.

Elmwood Village teachers Daniel Brink-Washington.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

“Charter schools are public schools – that’s the reality – so we are not taking away from any funding, if anything we are getting less funding,” Green noted.

“The way the funding works in New York State is monies are tied to per pupil models, so the idea that a district is entitled to monies even if a student makes a choice to attend a public charter school – to me that doesn’t make sense – the money is tied to the student and so if a family chooses another options – which in Buffalo one in five families choose another option – there are thousands of kids on waiting lists for charter schools,” Brink-Washington explained. 

Northeast Charter Schools Network issued a report saying Buffalo charters continue to be underfunded by 60-cents on the dollar compared to Buffalo Public schools. The city charters especially need funds for their facilities. New York State director of the Northeast Charter organization Andrea Rogers tells WBFO New York City charters get more cash.

“Ideally what we think would be the best solution would be to extend to all schools in the state a policy that is currently in place for some of the New York City charter schools, so in New York City if you are a new school or were expanding your school after the year 2014 – you are guarantee either space in an existing district building or extra facilities aid. We think that policy should be extended to all charter schools regardless of their geographic location and regardless of the age of the school,” Rogers said.    

Buffalo charter school students gather at Aloma Johnson Charter School.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

“Buffalo got negotiated out of that deal again, so we got screwed again,” declared Duncan Kirkwood, advocacy manager of Northeast Charter Schools Network. “It’s almost expected when there’s a charter school deal in the state legislative session – the first thing that gets negotiated out of the deal is funding for Buffalo charter schools.”

Kirkwood said charter school parents should not be “punished” with less funding and less state support.

“Equal access to high quality education is the civil rights fight of our generation. Can our kids get access to good schools? It is the only way to break generational poverty – it’s the only way to break generational curses – so we our state lawmakers to be our heroes and fight for us,” Kirkwood declared.

WBFO News reached out to the offices of State Senators Christopher Jacobs and Tim Kennedy of Buffalo for comment on charter school funding, but neither were available for interviews Tuesday. A spokesperson for Senator Kennedy responded in an email saying Kennedy "is out of town with his family and unavailable while away".  A spokesperson for Senator Jacobs also responded by email saying "unfortunately the Senator isn't available anymore this afternoon."