By Sister Carol Cimino
There is a story that Henry Ford once said, as his Model T cars were beginning to roll off the assembly line: “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.”
Pretty much the same “choice” is being offered to parents in the Buffalo Public Schools. You can attend any school as long as it’s public. No other options seem to exist for these 2,200 children, 90 percent of whom can’t go anywhere this year to escape a failing school despite their parents’ expression of a need for choice.
It’s time to look at a real, viable alternative for these children: the choice of a school that really works, has a successful track record and is willing to admit them with open arms.
Our Catholic schools have served the children of Western New York since 1847. Despite our shoestring budgets, we manage to attract and keep dedicated teachers, provide excellent academics and produce well-rounded graduates who have made valuable contributions to the civic and business communities in the Buffalo area.
There are several options that the Buffalo School Board may wish to consider in order to meet the demands of parents who want to opt out of what is currently being offered.
Consider contracting with the BISON Fund, a non-profit, non-sectarian organization in Buffalo that awards tuition scholarships to thousands of students from low-income households to attend religious and other private schools. If it is costing Buffalo Public Schools well in excess of $15,000 to educate each student, the district could give BISON substantially less to educate a child in a Catholic school. The district, in turn, would save tens of millions of dollars annually, money that could be reinvested in the Buffalo Public Schools or used to reduce property taxes.
Join us to support the Invest in Education tax credit legislation that would provide tax breaks to people willing to invest in real school choice both in the private and the public schools.
Allow the Catholic schools to reach out to parents who want to transfer their children out of failing public schools. Give the contact information to our schools so that they can invite children to visit our schools.
The Buffalo School Board has a unique opportunity to be a pioneer, to take a bold step to alleviate the pressure it is feeling, while focusing on meeting children’s, and not bureaucrats’ needs.
This could put Buffalo at the forefront of an education innovation, and it would provide Buffalo a safety valve with which to work in turning around the state of education in the City of Buffalo.
Sister Carol Cimino is superintendent of Catholic schools for the Diocese of Buffalo.