BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The University at Buffalo announced today that
it is joining a strategic alliance to support and expand the Kids
Voting Western New York program.
Plans call for expansion of the program, now in schools in Erie
and Niagara counties, to schools in other counties in Western New
York, and for UB faculty members to be involved in strengthening
the program's content and instructional material.
UB will join in partnership with The Buffalo News, which has
managed the Western New York chapter of Kids Voting since 1996, and
with the Western New York Regional Education Center for Economic
Development and the Buffalo Alliance for Education, which also have
been involved since 1996.
Joining UB President John B. Simpson in making the announcement
were Stanford Lipsey, publisher of The Buffalo News, and Robert M.
Bennett, chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents.
"Kids Voting is an amazing program," Simpson noted. "Since its
local inception a decade ago, over a half million Western New York
students have participated in yearly elections. This year, we have
more than 80,000 student participants in both Erie and Niagara
Noting UB's strong interest in strengthening education in
Western New York, Simpson said, "Kids Voting will fit nicely with a
number of other initiatives we now run that are designed to train
area teachers on the latest technology, and prepare more students
for high school and higher education.
"We also are excited because the range of experience at UB
across the various departments and schools will allow us to explore
new and creative ways to introduce the Kids Voting message into the
curriculum and into teacher training programs at participating
Kids Voting is a national nonprofit, nonpartisan voter-education
program that teaches students of all ages about voting and promotes
their participation in government as voters. Teachers of classes
from kindergarten through high school use the program's
instructional materials to help their students participate in
curriculum about the democratic process and elections, and then
cast their ballots on Election Day.
The Western New York chapter of Kids Voting will be housed in
UB's Center for Applied Technologies in Education (CATE), which
will create a Web site for materials related to the program.
Donald Jacobs, director of CATE, said that UB and Kids Voting
both benefit from the university's new undertaking.
"What this brings to the university is a tangible K-16 outreach
that is vitally important to preserving access for area students to
public higher education," Jacobs said. "This is also a program to
which we will add strong educational content. We will bring the
intellectual capacity of the university to bear on this. By taking
a leadership role in this, UB supports a program that has made a
longstanding contribution in our community."
Katie J. Biggie, coordinator of Kids Voting, said students will
see two immediate changes to the program this fall.
"Due to the Help America Vote Act, which is being implemented
this year and requires polling stations to be upgraded, we will
conduct the voting for students in the schools rather than the
polling places," Biggie explained. "In subsequent years, students
will again vote with their families at local voting places."
In conjunction with this year's program involving voting in
schools, Kids Voting Western New York will introduce absentee
voting to participating students.
"The students will vote on absentee ballots because they're not
at the polls," Biggie said. "It is another aspect of voting that
they would not normally know about and we think it will be a fun
School children will cast ballots for candidates in local and
regional elections, as well as the state races for governor,
attorney general and state comptroller. A space at the bottom of
each ballot will be available for schools to add their own
individualized issue -- such as which items to add to the cafeteria
menu -- that their students can then vote on.
Following the November elections, UB will work to strengthen the
program's content and instructional materials through contributions
from university faculty members from the areas of law, political
science, history and education.
"Over time, the vision for Kids Voting is to have UB faculty
contribute their expertise to better inform students about voting,"
Biggie said, adding that UB also plans to expand the program to the
remaining Western New York counties.
"UB has a lot of richness in how to approach building awareness
in civics, social studies and education," Jacobs said. "We want to
bring that richness to teachers so they can better understand how
to better create civics awareness. Kids Voting is a natural place
to do that."
Jerald I. Wolfgang, a board member of Kids Voting Western New
York and director of the Western New York Regional Education Center
for Economic Development, said UB's presence will strengthen Kids
"I think the new partnership is exceptional. We're excited to
have the University at Buffalo as part of Kids Voting. We believe
it will improve the program and bring more students and parents
into involvement in the voting process," Wolfgang added.