In early 2016, a group of immigrants and former refugees got together around shared concerns about disparities in education for immigrant and refugee kids in Buffalo Public Schools. Graduation rates were low, community schools weren’t accessible enough to community members, there was a lack of data to track student progress, and nothing was being done about it. Not content to sit by and let things slide, we decided to organize, and thus BILT was born.
BILT leaders set to work developing relationships with the principal of Lafayette International Academy and several officials in the Buffalo Public School system. We presented our concerns to and demanded a response from BPS officials at public meetings in October, 2016 and May, 2017. These meetings, which drew nearly 500 people, were designed to hold BPS publicly accountable for their commitments. Because of BILT’s organizing work, Lafayette Community School expanded its hours so that more community members can access citizenship classes, tutoring, English language classes, and other resources. BILT also secured a commitment from BPS officials to track and share data on immigrant and refugee-background students in order to better track their progress.
Currently, with a 2016 high school graduation rate of only 25% for ELL students, BILT is working to draw more funding for Buffalo Public Schools’ vital restorative justice and trauma informed teaching services. BILT also wants to ensure that BPS adheres to state mandates for English as a New Language services for immigrant and refugee-background students. Each of these programs supports better education and higher graduation rates for our kids.
To get involved in BILT’s work, please contact our organizer, Brian Zralek, at email@example.com.