One parent who attended the meeting told alt that, “The big thing is that the principal submitted an application to talk about it. They won’t even know if they (School 54 administration) have permission to talk about setting up a charter school until mid-April.”

Although the parent said that the meeting with the principal was somewhat reassuring, he also said, “Communications on the charter school between the principal, teachers and parents was nil before this, but this was just to get the conversation going. teachers and parents were upset that she didn’t say anything. When it comes down to decision making that’s when she needs to really talk to us about this.”

“A couple of parents of special education kids were really upset because of the history of special education kids in charter schools,” this person went on to say, “Most of us think the school is good the way it is, and we don’t want to change it.”

In a letter to parents, Principal Elizabeth Martina said that the she had submitted “a preliminary concept proposal to develop a conversion charter school.”

“As you know the fiscal outlook for our school district, has been very challenging since the tragedies of 9-11,” the letter stated. “This next year the district is facing a budget gap of 45 million dollars. The board is looking for a means to bring fiscal stability to the school district. We are looking to bring stability to our enrollment and staffing as well. We have had to cut and rearrange classrooms every year for the past three years. As more families leave our school for charters and for other school settings because of these uncertainties, we have had to make additional cuts.”

Our Translation: Republican lawmakers have seized upon 9-11 to bust teachers’ unions. The writing has been on the wall for a while. Rather than hold out and make a final stand, we need to surrender to political pressure in order to survive.

Some parents in attendance were able to draw a connection between the policies of the Bush administration and Buffalo’s Fiscal Stability Authority, as well. A few people mentioned union busting, which was, of course, denied.

One of the more idealistic teachers actually said that it was not about the union but making a difference in the city schools. Under the conversion law all employee contracts would be honored until their expiration and at that point all contracts would have to be renegotiated.

This strategy amounts to a classic two-tiered system, whereby teachers currently under union contract can continue to enjoy the salary and benefits that were won in hard fought battles while exposing their younger colleagues coming into the system to the vagaries of the free market.

Older unionized workers in Western New York and around the country continue to allow themselves to be forced into a no-win situation whereby their only way out is to pull the ladder up behind them.

Given the intensity of the attack in The Buffalo News, which is supported by parent company Berkshire Hathaway’s banking interest, M&T Bank, parents and teachers, like the community at large, have been squeezed hard.

While Buffalo schools have been a dismal failure due in large part to under-funding, the charter school movement appears poised to institutionalize that poverty. Nothing but a strong showing in the school board election on May 4 by grass roots candidates will be able keep the boa constrictor from swallowing its prey. Forced Conversions: A Reluctant School Plot Its Survival Parents and teachers at School 54 in Buffalo were shocked to find out that the school’s principal, Elizabeth Martina had submitted a proposal to convert School 54 to a charter school without their input, but at a school meeting on the subject held on March 31, the principal explained her actions. The Buffalo News submitted a Freedom of Information request to find out which schools had submitted concept proposals for the district’s conversion charter schools and that’s when the Principal called for a meeting with parents and teachers.