Buffalo Public School families, who requested a transfer out failing schools, are now being offered scholarship funding to attend private schools. The Children's First Scholarship will provide the funding. This this could be a win-win for public school students and some Catholic elementary schools in the city.
"Families will be eligible for a scholarship that can vary from a few hundred dollars to a maximum of $1,500," said Amy Popadick, executive director of the Bison Children Scholarship Fund and managing director of Children First Scholarship fund.
When more than 2,200 Buffalo Public School students requested transfers last year out of failing city schools, the district could not accommodate everyone at once. The Catholic Diocese of Buffalo had been working with the District toward an option for students.
"Conversations started in late 2013 when we realized there were still hundreds of students in low performing schools whose transfer requests were not accommodated. By the Buffalo Public School District. So we wanted to see what we could do to help these families," said Popadick.
Buffalo Schools Superintendent Pamela Brown said letters were sent to parents Thursday notifiying them of these funds.
"To let them know this opportunity will be available and it is very specific in terms of our encouraging parents to contact the schools or contact the Diocese to find out what these opportunities are," said Brown.
The funding could provide up to 300-students a chance to attend private elementary schools. Families must contribute a minimum of $500 a year toward the tuition to receive the funds. But District Parent Coordinating Council president Sam Radford tells WBFO News this is a great chance for students to have another option.
"I could not be more excited," said Radford. "To see that community leaders have stepped up and created solutions for some of our children who have been forced to stay in schools against their will is really, really a great thing."
Radford said he doesn't consider the $500 a year contribution from families as a "burden".
"I think it will be doable. First of all, I don't think this is necessarily for every parent. But I think there is a group of parents that can afford it," said Radford.
For the Catholic Diocese, which has experienced an enrollment drop at some of its schools, Buffalo Bishop Richard Malone is hoping this will help fill empty seats.
This scholarship will give several hundred families another option for educating their children and will increase enrollment in Catholic elementary schools, which in turn, will help strengthen our city,” Bishop Malone said.
“We fully support this effort and will work with families on tuition costs and payment plans. We want to help families make the most of this one-time opportunity," said Malone.
The John R. Oishei Foundation has awarded a challenge grant to support this effort. The Diocese, the Health Foundation for Western and Central New York, the Rich Family Foundation and Bell Fund also made matching grants. The scholarship program will be administered by the BISON Children’s Scholarship Fund.