Brendan Keany

Local Coalition Calls for Change to Buffalo School Board Election Date

Higher turnout will lead to "more democratic'" process in pivotal election

January 21, 2019 - 1:22 pm

BUFFALO (WBEN - Brendan Keany) - On Monday morning, the Change the Date Coalition called for a movement of the impending Buffalo Public School board elections to coincide with state primaries in June.

The coalition is a group represented by clergy, Buffalo school parents and students, the business community and others who are concerned about the lack of voter turnout for the school board elections.

Sam Radford is the president of the District Parent Coordinating Council, and he says this change is necessary.

"Last week, Buffalo Public Schools did a press conference talking about a lot of the great strides that are going on in the Buffalo Public Schools right now," said Radford. "Probably the highest graduation rate in its history, and with all that's been done, there's a lot of work that yet needs to be done, but we are moving in the right direction and what we can't afford to happen now is for us to take any steps backwards."

"We have to change the date of the school board election," said Radford. "There's no way that we can make the decisions to effectively get this district where we need to be with only 10% and as low as 3% of the people, involved in the school board election."

He says the timeframe may work for other school districts, but the city schools have been overlooked.

"Obviously the New York State Legislature saw a need to move the primary from September to June, and a lot of the reasons that we gave for needing to move the school board election from May, where it is now, which coincides with a vote on a school budget," said Radford. "The suburban school districts vote on their school budget in May, so they have their school elections in May. Buffalo Public Schools is not a suburban school district, and we do not vote on our school budget; there's no rational reason for us to have an election in May."

The coalition says that Assemblymember Crystal Peoples-Stokes and State Senator Chris Jacobs support the change, and they have introduced bills in the legislature to make it a possibility.

Radford added that the city is reaching a pivotal point in the history of the city's education.

"This school board election that's coming up is probably the most important school board election in the history of Buffalo Public Schools," he said. "Every 15 years, we elect or re-elect all nine school board members, so this year we can either come together as a community and really take our school district to the next level and be one of the best school districts in the state, or we have the possibility of having a low voter turnout, people not understanding the sense of urgency of setting ourselves back and literally going in the exact opposite direction."

Hear full audio from the press conference below:

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