Friday, March 14, 2014

Why Charters Can't Always Be Trusted to Serve Inner City Communities: A Buffalo Story

Henry Louis Taylor
· Buffalo, NY ·
This is about Betrayal
The struggle to regenerate the East Side is a protracted fight, which requires tireless dedication. In the late 1980s, a group of Buffalo residents and concerned citizens saved the St. Mary of Sorrows Catholic Church from being turned down and transformed it into a community center, early learning school, and neighborhood anchor institution.
The decision was made to anchor the neighborhood with a charter school, and over time, the King Center Charter School (KCCS) grew to 312 students, with grades from K-7th grade. Because of State law, the charter school was established as a separate entity, with its own board. The original intent was to grow the school and neighborhood in tandem. The axiom was you can't change schools without changing neighborhoods.
Over time, the King Center has slowly changed the face the neighborhood in which it is located. It has completely transformed one block, torn down dilapidated housing, and set the stage for the next phase of regeneration-- it has started the process of restoring hope that had been lost.
Now, the KCCS board wants to “disinvest” in the neighborhood by moving the school to a new and better location. Their message to the children is to escape from the problems in your community, rather than use your talents and skills to solve them.
They say the school needs room to expand, but the King Center has repeatedly said that would invest in the expansion. They would renovate the existing school to specifications agreed upon by the charter, but the charter has repeatedly rejected this offer.
They don’t like the neighborhood, so they want to disinvest in it, thereby setting back the work of the King Center.
When will “do-gooders” learn that you cannot transform the mostly Black East Side by playing a game of “musical neighborhoods”—disinvesting in one East Neighborhood and reinvesting in another East Side Neighborhood. This is a bad idea and the people of Buffalo should oppose it.