BUFFALO, N.Y. – The next Buffalo School Board election is scheduled for May 3. Developer Carl Paladino has one challenger for his Park District seat, and this candidate hasn't even graduated from high school yet.
We sat down with 18-year-old Austin Harig to find out why he's running -- and what his hopes for the district are. "It takes a lot of chaos going on there for an 18-year-old to say that's childish," the Hutrch Tech senior told 2 On Your Side. And he's not shy about saying it, either.
Harig is hoping to unseat Park District School Board Member Carl Paladino in next month's election.
"I love traveling. I'm a normal kid, honestly. And I've wanted to be a politician for a while. That's been my dream job or career, but did I expect to run for school board? I really didn't,” Harig says
Like any savvy politician would, Harig, who lives in South Buffalo, collected close to 650 signatures, more than the 500 needed to run, just in case his petitions are challenged by his opponent. “I'm pretty sure he'll try to … knock me off the ballot, which would be extremely rude and just really a terrible thing for the democratic process," he says.
Harig says his goal if elected is to bring compromise to the often divided board. "We all need to sit down and we need to discuss like how policies are going to affect kids, how we're going to improve our graduation rates, how we're going to improve attendance, how we're going to reallocate funding from this to this,” says Harig. “We need to discuss these things and we need to discuss them civilly between civil people who are not threatening each other with lawyers and racist insults and what have you.”
He also wants more technology in schools, and says he has received support from the teachers union, which has been working without a new contract for years.
"We're going to make some deals with the BTF and then everything's going to be okay. That's just how normal things work,” Harig assurs us.
He also found support from another major union.
"The AFL-CIO, which is an organization of over 70,000 members in this greater Buffalo area, they came out and said they support me. Why? Because they are so scared of what's going on in the school board under Carl."
Paladino declined our request for an interview for this story, and Harig says he hasn't spoken with him either.
"If Carl is going to come out and say anything about me, he's going to say, ‘Oh, this is just a kid. He's inexperienced. He doesn't know what he's talking about,’ and I therefore challenge him to debate me," said Harig.
There is a school board debate on Tuesday. Harig hopes Paladino is there.
And he says he's met a lot of the other challengers and board minority members and he's gotten a warm response.