BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - Many believe Buffalo Public Schools are in an academic state of emergency, which is raising a lot of concerns about the Queen City's future generations.
In a new campaign ad, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown touts the success of the city under his leadership. But many are questioning why the mayor isn't addressing the problem at city schools, which saw a seven percent drop in the graduation rate in just one year, especially since his campaign ad says the mayor is investing in the city's children.
In the video, you hear the mayor state, "I'm proud of all the progress we've made, but we're not done yet."
The video also states, "And most of all, Mayor Brown is invested in our children."
Watch the full campaign ad below:
Spokespeople in the video boast that thousands of children completed summer reading programs and the "Say Yes to Education" program, which offers free college tuition to high school graduates.
But some question how it can be called "progress" in education when less high school seniors graduated in 2012 than 2011, and less than half of all of the seniors at city schools will graduate. And the report from NYS also shows that far fewer students are actually college-ready.
"We've set a foundation certainly, when the absenteeism is a major problem... that's something we have to focus on," Brown said.
The mayor says with money in this year's city budget, a truancy officer will be hired to make sure absenteeism drops.
Brown said, "You asked what we are doing... this is what we are doing. Right now, we're very concerned about what's happening."
To graduate from high school, a student in New York State needs a minimum score of 65 on five Regents exams in addition to 22.5 credit hours. The State Board of Regents believes this is easily attainable but has little success in Buffalo.
"I think a lot of things have to be addressed and have to be addressed as a matter of urgency because this has to change. We can't lose these students," said Bob Bennett from the Board of Regents.
Brown says so much in this equation comes from home and the community needs to come together to help fix the problem in Buffalo schools.
The mayor has been in office for two-terms, and when News 4 asked him if he takes any responsibility for their current condition, he says "absolutely not." He says the city and schools are separate entities.
But his Republican challenger in the upcoming election says the blame should fall on Brown's shoulders. His campaign headquarters are quiet and unassuming, but Sergio Rogriguez's message about dismal graduation rates in the City of Buffalo is loud.
"It has a systemic impact that brings the city down to its knees," he argued.
Rogriguez says he will be seeking mayoral control over the city's education system, something he says has worked in New York City, where graduation rates are at 60-percent.
Rogriguez said, "I'm asking residents to say "hold me accountable" for this system and let's try something that's worked elsewhere, right here in the City of Buffalo."
The GOP candidate says he has a plan, starting with hiring truancy officers to help solve absenteeism. He would also create a new school board with full-time members and hire a new superintendent with a new focus on vocational education.
"We have to look at what works and move in that direction. We have to be very aggressive and right now there's no sense of urgency by anyone, including the superintendent," Rogriguez said.
Mayor Brown agrees attendance is a big issue, but says he wants no further says in what happens with city students. Instead, he says it's about collaboration.
"This is not about the mayor or eight terms, this is about a community-wide call to action," Brown said. "I think the great mistake we make is we look for "superman." We're looking for one person to turn around what all of us as a community should be engaged in."
There is a hearing Thursday in Buffalo about the use of medical marijuana. So far 20 states and Washington D.C. allow it.
News 4 is looking to see if police and firefighters were called to the same house overnight, for different incidents. Firefighters were on Goodyear Avenue putting out a fire around 3 a.m. Thursday.
Reverend Roy Harriger returned to court Wednesday night. The pastor is facing charges of molesting children.
Some of the members of his assembly refuse to believe the allegations against him. About eight members of the Community Fellowship …
In an effort to combat childhood obesity, a local school district is now banning a popular sweet treat.
This year, some local students are getting out their pens and paper to make sure other children have a happy holiday this year.
Crews will also be out dredging the Buffalo River on Thursday. They'll be in the city ship canal area.