A Buffalo Public Schools teacher is planning a run for state Assembly.
Sean Kaczmarek, an English as a new language teacher at P.S. 45 International School, is seeking the Democratic nomination for the 149th Assembly District that covers much of the city of Buffalo. He’ll look to replace Sean Ryan, a Democrat who is vacating the seat in order to run for state Senate.
The 25-year-old University at Buffalo graduate and Kaisertown native said he’s seeking political office because of what he’s seen as an educator.
“You can see the families that are holding down a couple jobs and struggling, and the families that might not have all the food security that they need,” Kaczmarek told WBFO. “So I really see this on the front lines every day and there’s only so much I can do from a classroom.”
Education is a major part of Kaczmarek’s platform, including reforming the state’s oft-criticized standardized testing system and method for distributing Foundation Aid to school districts.
Kaczmarek is also a proponent of universal pre-kindergarten.
“All these things require funding so I don’t propose to have a silver bullet or an easy way to fund these things,” he said, “but these are critical issues and they’ve got to be talked about at the table, they’ve got to be discussed, they’ve got to be figured out.”
Kaczmarek said he’s also focused on increasing access to health care. He’s a supporter of the New York Health Act, which would create a single-payer insurance system in the state. The Assembly has passed the bill the last four legislative sessions, but the Senate has not passed it.
“I will go through it with a fine-tooth comb and ensure it is going to make things easier for mental health access, for prescription drug prices or general health insurance plan prices,” Kaczmarek said. “As long as it has positive effects on those things, I would vote for it."
Kaczmarek said he also supports increasing access to public transportation, adding Buffalo has to expand beyond its single line metro rail.
“Low-income residents, who don’t have the means to own a car or simply choose not to, they need some means to get around,” he said. “This is a means of getting to work, it’s a means of getting to an interview, it might be a means of getting to the grocery store. … We can’t just grow in terms of pockets of people who own homes and own cars and leave everybody else behind.”
If elected, Kaczmarek would be the state Legislature’s youngest member. The current youngest state Senator and current youngest Assemblymember are both 28.
Kaczmarek said he’s sure some voters will take issue with his age, but adds he has unique experience for someone his age. This includes being elected to the Cheektowaga-Sloan Board of Education at the age of 19 and studying in London for two years as UB’s Marshall Scholar.
Plus, Kaczmarek said he has a stake in all the issues he’s running on.
“I live in this community. I have grown up here. So whether it’s health care and the taxes that come with that, or whether it’s the development that’s going to happen to this city, or how the education system works out, these are issues I have a stake in because I am going to be here,” he said. “I think your representative should have a stake in everything they’re voting on.”
Candidates can begin circulating petitions in February. A Democratic primary for the Assembly seat would be held in June.