Tonawanda News

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November 21, 2013

Advocating for education

Tonawanda News — TOWN OF TONAWANDA — The Ken-Ton School District is joining a region-wide movement to lobby legislators for educational change related to a variety of hot-button issues, including Common Core testing and a long list of unfunded mandates. 

“Over the past few years, we’ve seen the problems exacerbate,” school board President Bob Dana, one of the leading lobbyists of the group, said. “We’ve got the testing, APPR ... and we still have the financial problems. It has just snowballed.” 

The board, parents and teachers met publicly for the second time Wednesday night as part of the new legislative advocacy initiative. Dana, Vice President Stephen Brooks, and other leaders of the group, including Ken-Ton Parent Association President Jill O’Malley, are recruiting parents to lobby legislators about the district’s concerns. Dana said he hopes to create 12 teams that can talk to legislators, their staff and the education department once a week. 

“Parents today, they’ve got kids, they work and so forth, and they don’t have a lot of time,” Dana said. “But we’re not asking for a lot. If a parent can donate a few hours every three months, we can have different people lobbying every week.” 

The reports from each lobbying effort will then be posted on the website, where two such documents are already available. The reports will inform residents about where the politicians stand on the issues.

In one of the published reports, for example, state Sen. Mark Grisanti’s chief of staff, Douglas Curella, indicated that the legislator would likely not support raising taxes to increase financial aid for school districts, but said he supported other solutions that could help ease the strain.

Curella attended the meeting Wednesday, explaining Grisanti’s stance and what residents can do.

“Everyone is tired of unfunded mandates, we are aware of that and are working on it,” he said. “Many want more funding, but don’t want higher taxes, so we have to find a middle ground.”

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