Liberal civil rights academic demands delaying reform agenda

By Mike Madigan

As per The Buffalo News article of September 10th 2014, the Buffalo School Board voted unanimously to hire Gary Orfield to conduct a study and recommend changes to Buffalo Public Schools (BPS) criteria-based schools admissions process.

The September Board vote was in response to a settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights which had initiated an investigation of the BPS criteria schools admissions process following complaints from several BPS parents.

The Buffalo News reported that the scope of the agreement with Orfield was to complete a study and provide recommendations prior to March 2015 so that the Board of Education (BOE) “by March 2015” could review and take actions related to the organization’s recommendations for changes to criteria-based schools admissions process. (Link):

As per Gary Orfield in a complaint letter against BPS BOE member Carl Paladino (link) sent to the Civil Rights Department dated February 10, 2015, much of the data for the Orfield study had yet to be gathered. Orfield planned to “initiate” a field survey in late February 2015, well after the date by which the BPS BOE required the study to be completed so they could review and take action that would impact the 2015-16 school year.

Orfield provides NO NEW DATE for when he will complete his already delinquent study but does provide several justifications for not meeting The Buffalo News reported February 2015 deadline. One of Orfield’s justifications was that he had allowed a long delay, with no explanation as to why, in circulating a request for proposal and the associated contracting process for the parent survey that is required to meet the deliverables of his contract. It has been reported that this survey still has not been started.

In his letter, Orfield reveals that, surprisingly, even though his study will not meet the critical delivery date, that he would expand the scope of his study to cover charter schools and considerations associated with high schools facing closure or transformation. This scope expansion could explain the reason for delay since such out of scope work would vastly expand the study and time required to complete it.

This unapproved scope resulted in Orfield demanding in his letters and other communication that the BOE not take any action associated with charter schools and failed non-criteria based school transformation plans.

The BOE has been acting with urgency since June to finalize plans to correct and prevent the continued destruction of thousands of children’s lives trapped in four failed schools by providing educational opportunities. Such opportunity has been denied for years .The BOE has recently sought to come into compliance with the No Child Left Behind Law, which has been knowingly breached for the past several years.

The newly elected BOE majority was elected based on their commitment to halt such lawlessness, failure and delays and to act with urgency to restore educational opportunities that have been denied children trapped in these minority schools.

This scope expansion by Orfield surprised a number of BOE members and precipitated a conflict between Orfield and board member Carl Paladino.

The conflict was based on Orfield’s demand to place plans on hold that are mostly outside of the scope of Orfield’s initial scope of study and wait for a date uncertain when the delinquent Orfield report would be completed.

The demand by Orfield would likely mean accepting a full year delay in action on the four failed schools targeted for reform. The plan must be finalized immediately in order to impact the 2015-16 school year. Further delay would likely push action into the 2016-17 school year, negatively impacting thousands of children’s lives an extra year.  The delay would be devastating to the futures of thousands of children’s lives.

Orfield’s accusation that Paladino was interfering with his study/investigation and attempting, as Orfield claimed in his letter, “to control my work” is curious since that is exactly what Orfield is doing to the BOE in regards to its activities which are mostly outside of the scope of the Orfield study.

Reviews of the facts strongly suggest that Orfield’s demands are unreasonable and unethical and that Paladino’s confrontation with Orfield was justified.

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