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Pushing back against the state

It seemed like everyone was on the State Education Department's case on Monday. Teachers, administrators, council members, board members, Assembly members, you name it. Much of Monday's rhetoric was an extension of ongoing complaints that run along the lines of: "How dare the state do this to us. Good things are happening here. What do they know?"

"You just take away everything because someone downtown didn't fill out an application properly?" said Anne Blonski, an eighth-grade teacher at Lafayette.

I've been interested in a couple of things: Where does the state get the authority to require Buffalo to partner with BOCES (Ryan raised this issue in passing Monday), and how will the Buffalo school district pay for any plans it has to both partner with BOCES and continue the role of Johns Hopkins University.

I suspect we may learn more about the cost equation at Wednesday's board meeting. But state officials offered two answers to my questions.

Regarding the question about the commissioner's authority, state ed spokesman Dennis Tompkins stated:

In addition to the Commissioner's general supervisory powers under the Education Law and his authority and responsibility for school accountability under federal law, notably the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the Commissioner is given specific authority under Education Law section 211-b(4) to develop a plan for intervention in schools in restructuring or SURR status. 
That statewide plan for intervention has been embodied in the Commissioner's regulations, specifically section 100.18(l) and section 100.2(p)(10).  Under those regulations, each SURR school must have a comprehensive improvement plan or restructuring plan that is approved by the Commissioner. 
In his letter, the Commissioner advised the Buffalo Board of Education that he will not approve the district's plan for intervention in these schools unless the Board takes the steps necessary to immediately intervene to protect the educational welfare of the students in these schools by contracting for services with the BOCES, which is willing and able to provide quality services in the 2013-2014 school year.  


In response to my question about the cost of funding King's directive and continuing to work with Johns Hopkins University without any federal grant money, Tompkins offered this comment Monday: "We offered to go through the Buffalo school district’s budget line by line. We’re confident the district has enough resources to make this work. We’ve had no response from the district."

My colleague, Jill Terreri, did an extended blog item regarding the Common Council's education committee meeting Monday. It's on the Politics Now blog.

Below is the letter sent to King from Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes and Assemblyman Sean Ryan on Friday.

Peoples-Stokes-Ryan letter to King.pdf

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About School Zone

Denise Jewell Gee

Denise Jewell Gee

Denise Jewell Gee joined The Buffalo News in 2007 and currently covers education and suburban schools. She also writes a column for the City & Region section and previously covered government in Erie County and Niagara Falls. Gee graduated from Boston University with degrees in journalism and political science.

@denisejewellgee |

Tiffany Lankes

Tiffany Lankes

Tiffany Lankes joined The Buffalo News in 2013 and primarily covers the Buffalo Public Schools. She has written about education since 2003 at newspapers in Florida and New York. In 2008, she was a nominated finalist for The Pulitzer Prize. Lankes is an Amherst native and graduate of Sacred Heart Academy and Syracuse University. She started her journalism career writing for the News’ NeXt section.

@TiffanyLankes |

Sandra Tan

Sandra Tan

Sandra Tan has been a cityside reporter for The Buffalo News since 2000 and currently covers the Buffalo Public Schools beat. She previously covered the Williamsville school district and was a full-time education reporter for five years prior to joining The News. She graduated from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.

@BNschoolzone |

Deidre Williams

Deidre Williams

Deidre Williams began working for The Buffalo News in 1999 and currently covers Buffalo Public Schools. She formerly was a suburban reporter on the Northtowns beat and has been a cityside reporter covering communities since 2004. Williams has a mass communications degree from Towson University.

@DeidreWilliamsB |