Superintendent Kriner Cash may use the surplus $75 million in state education funding this year to expand Erie Community College’s downtown campus — which would enhance the Buffalo Public School system’s ability to “seamlessly collaborate” with the college on regional workforce training and employment objectives.
Sources familiar with Cash’s thinking tell The Chronicle that the downtown campus would allow high school students to take ECC-accredited coursework, would expand the district’s vocational education options, and would train graduates with employable skill sets needed in the workforce. The facility may house a high school operated by the district, or classroom facilities operated by the college.
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz has long been supportive of an improved community college campus downtown, though under his leadership he has not dedicated additional county resources to the campus.
Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes — who played a key role in delivering the unprecedented level of state aid to Buffalo schools — is thought to be open to the idea of using the resources for a better community college that specializes in serving the inner city. Some operatives close to her have even suggested that ECC’s downtown campus might be better allowed to flourish if it were made independent of the North and South ECC campuses.
“Why do ECC students from the City have to beg for resources and access to classes that are only provided at the suburban campuses?” the operative asks. “We need to get out of this city-versus-suburb resource paradigm that has defined our county government even today. Let every community build and manage its own institutions.”
“Let the city have ‘Buffalo Community College’ and let the suburbs have Erie County Community College,” he surmises.
It’s unclear whether Mayor Byron Brown or his Democrat primary challengers — India Walton and Scott Wilson — will back the investment.