Buffalo schools are hemorrhaging students like no other district in New York State.
The EIA tracked trends from 2001-02 to 2006-07, the latest year that complete data is available, and found that Buffalo lost 18.5 percent of its enrollment. That compares with a statewide drop of 3.2 percent, including anywhere from 4.8 to 8 percent at the other Big Five districts. The details are are here.
Population loss can only explain a part of Buffalo's enrollment drop. The flight of students to charter schools explains a lot more. There are some 6,300 students enrolled in charter schools in WNY, most of them in Buffalo.
While voter turnout for school board elections is pathetic, a lot of parents are voting another way -- with their children's feet.
If there are good numbers to be found in the report, it's that the teaching staff has also shrunk by 18.5 percent. Then again, given the crushing needs, such a big dropoff isn't necessarily a good thing.
Other "good" numbers?
Spending per pupil in Buffalo increased 30.5 percent, vs. a statewide average of 38.4 percent.
Question: Is it a good thing when you drop enrollment by nearly 20 percent but still increase your spending by nearly one-third?
Then consider per-pupil spending on compensation, which is mostly for teacher wages and benefits. It was up 24 percent in Buffalo, vs. a statewide average of 38.8 percent.
Why? Probably because teachers have been working under the terms of a contract that expired in July 2004. Failure on the labor front is hardly grounds to celebrate, especially given that the Buffalo Teachers Federation keeps kicking the district's butt in court, setting the stage for one mother of a retroactive check.
There's lots more to digest in the report about WNY's other school districts, as well. For the record, New York has 683 of 'em.
Its school district, at 1,906 students, lost 7.9 percent of its enrollment. Spending jumped 35.6 percent over the six years ending in 2005-06.
For this, voters are asked to elect seven school board members. Let's see. That's about one member for every 272 students.
If Buffalo schools used that ratio, the Board of Education would have 134 members.
Kevin Gaughan, are you listening?