Pressure increases to move Buffalo School Board election

Feb 5, 2019

All nine Buffalo School Board seats are on the voting machine this year, but when will voters cast their ballots? The election is scheduled for May 7, but a local coalition is pushing for a change.

The stakeholder group drew a small crowd to a meeting Monday night at Community Action Organization offices on Dodge Street. Members wants a vote either on primary election day in June or on the November general election day, already used by Rochester and Syracuse.

District Parent Coordinating Council External Public Advocate Duncan Kirkwood said there should be more people voting and a change in voting day would help.

At-Large Member Barbara Seals Nevergold is sworn in as Buffalo School Board President in July 2018. All nine seats are up for election this year.
Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

"It seems like a lot of people don't have issues with the fact that nobody votes in the school board elections. It just happens every few years and then the teachers union just continues to grow in its influence on the School Board and dictate what happens for the future of our children and, at some point, we've got to say no," Kirkwood said.

"We want hundreds, we want thousands of voters to turn out to be a part of the election process and pick people who are a true representation of the community."

Buffalo Teachers Federation President Phil Rumore said the union favors keeping elections on the current day or moving it to May 21, when suburban districts across New York vote on their school boards and budgets, in effect creating a public education voting day.

"This way, everybody across the state knows, except for in Rochester, that this is the day that we all come out because we care about education and we want to vote on the education budgets, as well as who's going to serve on the school board," Rumore said. "Only the people that really are concerned about education are the ones who come out and I'd rather have quality rather than quantity."

District Parent Coordinating Council President Sam Radford said the coalition wants another change, as well.

Buffalo Teachers Union President Phil Rumore (right) wants election day to stay where it is or May 21, when other districts vote.
Credit Eileen Buckley / WBFO News File Photo

"The issue is also changing the number of signatures you need to get on the ballot," Radford said. "This is supposed to be non-political, but you have to have 500 signatures to get a district seat and you have to have 1,000 signatures. You have to go out and get those petitions in the middle of the winter. So the only way you can do that is you are political. [There is] no way an average citizen who wants to run for school board is going be able to do that."

Supporters of the change say Albany could do it this year because the change would only affect Buffalo, and nowhere else.