UB Becomes Partner in Kids Voting Western New York

By Mary Cochrane

Release Date: October 2, 2006

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 Counties."

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 schools."

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 change."

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 Voting.

"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.