Is it time for school district takeover? Lawmakers weigh in

Feb 25, 2015

The Buffalo School Board meets in regular session Wednesday evening.  The last meeting was filled with controversy and personal attacks against a deeply divided board.  In this Focus on Education report WBFO'S Eileen Buckley asks some local leaders if they feel it's time for intervention.

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown speaking to a Burgard Vocational High School student. The mayor said he would be in favor of a mayoral takeover of the city school district.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley
"It there is going to be any kind of takeover, I would certainly be more in favor of a mayoral takeover," said Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown.

As a divided school board continues bickering and getting into personal confrontations, Governor Andrew Cuomo has suggested a model used in Massachusetts to deal with struggling district like Buffalo in his proposed education reforms. It is considered a 'receivership' model that would allow outside individuals or non-profit organizations to take over schools or the entire district and would override the authority of the school board.  

"The conversation is just beginning. There is obviously a lot to talk about. We are making education a top priority in New York State as the budget is upon us," said State Senator Tim Kennedy of Buffalo. 

Kennedy didn't directly answer if a state-style take over could be effective for the district. Kennedy is focused on  securing more funding.

"It all starts, as far as I'm concerned, with the funding in the budget. That's why we are pushing for $2-billion in more school aid for our children in public schools across the state," said Kennedy.

Western New York Congressman Brian Higgins said he's not so certain a state takeover is the solution.

"I don't think state control of Buffalo Public Schools is a good idea. I think we have to resolve our own problems here in Buffalo and Western New York," stated Higgins. "Whenever you have a large bureaucracy, like the Buffalo Public Schools, you are going to have problems. It's how you deal with those problems will determine success or failure." 

But what about mayoral control.

"It there is going to be any kind of takeover, I would certainly be more in favor of a mayoral takeover," said Mayor Byron Brown. The Mayor responded when WBFO News asked if he believes the school district needs some type of takeover.

"Although I don't think takeover is the right word. I think we have to build consensus. We have to work together, we have to cooperate with each other, so my goal would not to be to take anything over -- my goal would be to more consensus to get people working more closely with each other," said Brown.

The Mayor says he will continue to collaborate with the district. The city has funded attendance teachers and instrumental music to assist students. Mayor Brown tells WBFO News he remains open to stepping in and providing 'more leadership.'