Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today urged the Department of Education (DOE) to collaborate with Buffalo city officials to identify potential funding opportunities for “Say Yes to Education” in Buffalo, a national non-profit organization aimed at drastically increasing high school graduation and college attendance rates for inner-city youth. In a letter to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Senator Gillibrand noted that Buffalo Public School’s graduation rate is below the New York State average, and the “Say Yes to Education’s” model for transforming education has the potential to radically improve this number and benefit over 30,000 students in this urban district by removing financial, social and educational barriers to post-secondary attainment in the City of Buffalo. Last month, Senator Gillibrand wrote to “Say Yes” President Mary Anne Schmitt-Carey, securing a partnership between the program and the City of Buffalo.
“I’ve seen firsthand that ‘Say Yes’ works and I know it will be an invaluable resource for Buffalo both as an economic driver and a stabilizing force for a region that has experienced significant losses in population and jobs,” Senator Gillibrand said. “Collaboration between all the parties involved is vital as the city launches this important initiative. The program not only encourages students to develop high academic expectations for themselves, but gives them the tools and support they need to meet those expectations so they can graduate from high school and excel in college.”
“Bringing ‘Say Yes’ to Buffalo is another vital step to help our youth get on the right track for education, achievement and employment,” said Mayor Byron W. Brown, who noted that he committed more than half a million dollars over the next three fiscal years to support this important partnership that provides a college education to all Buffalo students, regardless of family income level or circumstance. “With Governor Andrew Cuomo’s $1 billion promise to Buffalo to lure private sector investment, we need to strengthen our schools and restore faith in our public school system so that families stay or relocate to our city to live, work, and do business.”
“The opportunity that we have created with “Say Yes” is for this generation of students in Buffalo, but it is also an opportunity for our region to invest in our children,” said Alphonso O’Neil-White, President and CEO of BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York and Chair of the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo. “Partnership is the foundation of “Say Yes,” and we would be honored to have Secretary Duncan’s involvement in furthering this transformational effort.”
Buffalo Public School’s 2010 graduation rate of 47 percent is well below the New York State average of 73.4 percent. The “Say Yes” program would seek to radically improve this number and make college an achievable goal for children in the region living in poverty. The organization fosters collaboration between educators, elected officials, business leaders, and community members to provide comprehensive support for students beginning in elementary school, ultimately promising full college or vocational education in New York State to any student who graduates from a public or charter high school. Along the way, the program provides services such as tutoring, health-clinics, mental health counseling, legal clinics for families and a host of other after-school and summer programs.
“Say Yes” opened its doors in Syracuse in the fall of 2008 and eventually became the largest school improvement program of its kind in the nation. Senator Gillibrand hosted a “Say Yes” roundtable at Syracuse University, and set up a meeting between the Mayor of Syracuse and members of the Department of Education. In 2009, Secretary Duncan visited the Martin Luther King Elementary magnet school in Syracuse to spotlight ‘Say Yes’ and commend the city on its success in launching the program.
The text of Senator Gillibrand’s letter is below:
Dear Secretary Duncan,
I was very encouraged that Say Yes to Education decided to partner with the City of Buffalo Public schools. As I continue to monitor the partnership, I want to ask for your guidance and help by meeting with the City of Buffalo and other involved official to help them identify potential funding opportunities for their new Buffalo Say Yes to Education program.
Buffalo Public School’s 2010 graduation rate of 47 percent is well below the New York State average of 73.4 percent. Say Yes to Education’s model for transforming education has the potential to radically improve this number and benefit over 30,000 students in this urban district by removing financial, social and educational barriers to post-secondary attainment in the City of Buffalo.
Buffalo Say Yes will be a powerful driver of economic development and a stabilizing force for a region that has experienced a significant loss of population and jobs. The unique public- private team that is forming around this initiative will encourage and develop a culture of high academic expectations for students and provide the necessary support for students, particularly at-risk individuals, to meet these expectations, graduate high school on time and attend and succeed in college. I have seen firsthand the benefits of Say Yes’ comprehensive approach in Syracuse, making college an achievable goal for children living in poverty throughout that area. I believe Say Yes will transform Buffalo’s schools with this powerful approach to education.
I sincerely hope that you will provide as much support and resources possible to the City of Buffalo Public Schools as they begin the launch of this important initiative. To move forward on setting up a meeting with the City of Buffalo, please be in touch with my staff member, Jon Cardinal, at (202) 224-7074.