By Larry Scott
Carl Paladino’s history and business dealings indicate grave concern about his intentions in running for Buffalo School Board. Not only does he lack expertise and a background in education, but, when lambasting Buffalo Public Schools, he never references any knowledge of or research on child development, education, student achievement and reform.
He only, recklessly, urges that schools be converted to charter schools, without providing any evidence that this is an effective systemic reform.
So, why is he so incessantly passionate about this unproven reform? A look into Paladino’s business transactions provides an understanding and reveals compelling evidence that his intention is to profit from public money.
Every time a new charter school is established, obtaining space for the school entails purchasing or leasing a building, which typically results in costly renovation of an existing structure or new construction. Therefore, charter schools often lease from private entities, such as real estate developers, commercial landlords and property management companies.
Conveniently, Paladino’s own company, Ellicott Development, performs all of these services, and has actually served in the development and leasing of three existing Buffalo charter schools. At a combined cost of about $19.5 million, along with a sales and mortgage tax break from the Erie County Industrial Development Agency totaling $605,570, Ellicott Development provided the lease with and construction for Tapestry Charter School, West Buffalo Charter School and Health Science Charter School. Paladino and his for-profit company are making a remarkable profit, almost all from public tax dollars.
Although charter schools are created and managed by private entities, they are predominately funded by public money. In 2010, an annual audited financial statement for New York Charter Schools found that more than 95 percent of Buffalo charter school funding came from public dollars, while less than 5 percent came from private donations. Spending on facilities (development and leasing) is typically the second-largest expenditure, amounting to approximately $1,150 per Buffalo student.
Knowing how Paladino’s company has already benefited, it comes as no surprise that he would prey on the school district’s deficiencies and relentlessly demand that schools be converted to charters.
It’s hard, then, to believe that Paladino genuinely cares about our schools, families and children. He’s a successful and wealthy businessman, who cares only about the bottom line, arguably acceptable in a free enterprise, but unacceptable at the expense of our children, education and public tax dollars.
Larry Scott is school psychologist in the Kenmore-Tonawanda School District.