BOSTON PARENTS DEMAND FULL DISCLOSURE REGARDING PLAN FOR CITY’S PUBLIC SCHOOLS

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Date: November 30th, 2015

Contact: qualityforeverystudent@gmail.com

Quality Education for Every Student (QUEST), a grassroots organization of Boston parents with children in over thirty different Boston Public Schools, is asking city officials to be transparent about school policy deliberations that will affect tens of thousands of Boston families. QUEST says the city is holding back information about plans to close up to three dozen district schools and is allowing the Boston Compact, an entity funded largely by the Gates Foundation, to develop policy about city schools through backdoor channels.

QUEST has particular concerns about the outsized role of the Boston Compact in a proposal to put charter schools into the city’s “home-based” student assignment system (“Enroll Boston”). “We’ve seen what’s happened in other cities when unified enrollments were imposed. In New Orleans, it led to greater segregation and less equity, particularly for special needs students. In Denver, Philadelphia, and elsewhere, public schools have been closed and the buildings handed over to private operators. All this was done while shutting out parents and community members from decision-making. We’re not going to let that happen in Boston,” said Karen Oil, a BPS parent.

At a September 29, 2015 meeting with QUEST parents, Mayor Marty Walsh revealed plans to shrink the number of Boston Public School buildings to 90. The Walsh administration, however, has given no public indication whether the plan involves shuttering dozens of buildings, handing buildings over to charter operators, or forcing public schools to co-locate with charters. In addition, recent documents obtained by QUEST through a public records request show that these facilities plans are being driven by the priorities of the Compact, not by the needs of the Boston Public Schools.

QUEST identifies the recently proposed “Enroll Boston” system as the next step in a privately financed agenda that has destabilized public education and increased inequities in other cities. Although representatives of the Compact allege they initiated “Enroll Boston” as a response to parent demand for a simpler lottery system, the Compact has given no data to support this claim. “The community meetings held by the Boston Compact were more window dressing than a real attempt to seek our input. It looked like the outcome had everything to do with the agenda of the Compact and their private funders and very little to do with the needs of actual students and families in the public schools,” BPS parent Mary Lewis-Pierce said.

QUEST will continue to demand transparency from city officials regarding the future of the city’s schools. All policy deliberations, especially those taking place with private organizations, must be conducted in the public eye, with full public access to meetings and written records.

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The Boston Compact is about convenience but not your convenience

What do you need if you are in the business of opening more and more charter seats in the Boston area? A school is more than the teachers and the students and books. Schools are buildings. If you are opening new schools you are inevitably going to want something made of brick and mortar.

But that’s not an easy problem. Regulations regarding school construction are complex and real estate is expensive. But what if there was a way to just take over existing school buildings? A turnkey solution would be a whole lot more manageable and would make the growth of your industry easier.

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The New Schools Venture Fund is a nonprofit organization that raises philanthropic dollars (Gates and Walton Foundation) in order to scale entrepreneurial education ventures (charter schools).

They have invested 12 million dollars in Boston. The following screenshots are from the Boston Charter Replication Report.

In 2010, the Massachusetts Legislature raised the charter cap so that there are now 6,500 new charter seats in the Greater Boston area. This report projects that there will be 11,000 seats in 2020 but it does not say if that number is dependent on new legislation that further raises the cap.

This has presented a challenge to the industry because where can they put all of those seats?

Who has school buildings? Boston Public School does.

The venture fund contributed money to the Boston Compact that was then ratified by our unelected school committee in 2011 with the commitment to leasing underutilized Boston Public School buildings.

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In December 2011, the unelected Boston School Committee issues 3 RFPs for school buildings.

Eventually, the Dickerman and the Lucy Stone schools were closed and their buildings given to Roxbury Prep Charter School. The Endicott was also closed and the building now houses the Bridge Boston Charter School.

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The unelected Boston School Committee recommitted itself to the Boston Compact last month in the midst of the Unified Enrollment proposal.

This gets to the heart of why I am so alarmed by the Unified Enrollment and the Boston Compact. I do not believe that it is a compact that works in the best interest of the children of BPS because there is no one advocating for our interest.  It is a means of identifying which schools will be closed so that the charter industry can continue it’s unfettered expansion by taking over our buildings.

Here is a link to the entire report.NewSchools-Boston-End-of-Fund-Report-2

 

Speaking for myself. Only.

You’re going to be a great mayor, as long as you take care of the people of Boston and keep the people first.

So what to make of this new mayor? Has he put the people of Boston first? Has he kept us in his heart as he makes decisions?

Mayor Walsh rolled out a major facilities plan in late September with much fanfare. It was sold as a chance to update BPS’s crumbling facilities and upgrade the schools for 21st century learning. Though, Mayor Walsh did admit that some schools would have to be consolidated.

The facilities plan calls for a major audit of all BPS facilities. It was announced with much fanfare.

In the same speech where he announced the billion dollar, ten year facilities plan, he also admitted that there was a more controversial part of the plan: school closings and consolidations.

It’s going to be controversial in some ways, but it’s going to be the right thing to do to make sure that our young people get the best education, in the best buildings, with the best principals and the best teachers in this city,” he said.

In off the record meetings with parents, BPS officials have intimated that the mayor wants to get the Boston Public Schools down to 90 buildings.

BPS currently has 126 schools. Mayor Walsh plans to close 36 BPS schools, ¼ of the district.

A recent FOIA request demonstrated that the Boston Compact, the group of administrators from district, charter and Catholic schools, is determining which BPS buildings should be handed over to charters. There is not one facilities plan happening. It is a tri sector facilities plan (district/charters/catholic) that will help charters grow by leasing out the buildings of the schools that they will close.

Operations Subcommittee
Operations Subcommittee

You can see all the posted all documents for review here.

Furthermore, this proposal is not being driven by the wishes of Mayor Walsh’s constituents. These plans are not being hammered out in open meetings where the citizens of Boston can hold policy makers accountable. These decisions are being made in closed meetings with the Gates Foundation and the Walton Foundation where Mayor Walsh is hoping to receive funding for his education agenda.

Philanthropy Subcommittee
Philanthropy Subcommittee

I think everyone can agree that our education policy should be driven by the people of Boston and not outside foundations.

On October the 14th, the unelected Boston School Committee voted unanimously to renew the Boston Compact.

Here are the last Boston Compact meetings:

Here are the last meetings:

 Thursday, November 12


6:30 – 9:00 pm

1st Church of Jamaica Plain

Tuesday, November 17


5:30 – 8:00 pm

West End Boys and Girls Club