The real numbers

To hear the mayor speak of it, there are no problems with his budget for Boston Public Schools. He keeps saying that there is a capacity for 90,000 students in BPS while only serving 57,000 students. But where did he get that number? Does he ever say? The master facilities plan is still ongoing. And the McKinsey report is completely unreliable.

He will also brag, repeatedly, about how he has raised the BPS budget by 13 million. Now that’s only a 1% raise even though the negotiated contracts call for 3% cost of living raise. But it doesn’t stop him from bringing up as a political point.

I want parents, especially parents who have been in BPS a few years, to ask yourselves a few questions when you step into your children’s school.

Do you have the same resources that you had when your children first entered into school?

Do you have the same number of teachers? Have you lost specials: art, music, foreign languages?

Do parents have to raise more and more money?

Do you have the same number of students in the building as you did before?

You do not have to rely on the spin of the policy makers because your own lived experience provides you with the data.

And this is happening all across the city.

00b4dc82b16861c1b7e2bcddee0ee4e4Take for example, Snowden International High School. Snowden International is a non-exam high school that awards an International Baccalaureate diploma after the students complete 4 years of world language study, history science and math.

Its student body is 90% students of color. They are losing $390,000 dollars and will lose 2 english teachers, the math teacher will go down to part time, and like BCLA, they will fall out of compliance when they lose their librarian.

This is a successful school that is being targeted by the Walsh administration for failure. The city is choosing to undermine the education of these young people and not support their school.

The city ended last year with a budget surplus. This is a choice. These are its values. And as important as it is to support early education, to defund high schools is to cut the futures of the city’s teenagers off at knees just before they are set to launch out into the world.

We elect the people who are doing this to our children. We send them into office so that they can sit in their nice offices, with their advisors and their spreadsheets, and then choose to give big tax breaks to corporations but turn their backs on our children.

And as discouraging as this all is there is one thing to remember. They are all coming up quickly on their performance review.

Advertisements

We are not going anywhere

In retrospect, I’m not even sure if the guy who suggested that we protest the State of the City address was being serious when he said it.

12512817_1637139586547416_3917751197146550527_n“Just a few people with signs. That’s all it would take.” We only had a week but we thought we could pull it off. Kenny noted a few days in that the temperature was expected to be 20 degrees that day. But what could we do?

So on the coldest day of the year so far, about 100 of us trudged around in a barricade while the important people of Boston were shepherded into the hall. Some of them cheered, many of them gave us serious side eye, but they saw us. They all saw us.

We were joined by the Boston Homeless Solidarity Committee who were demanding safe shelter for their community.

City Councilor Tito Jackson came by for encouragement. And we were honored when 12622313_10156406137155640_1837070534409084866_oRepresentative Byron Rushing marched for a bit. In a tactic that is straight out of House of Cards, the mayor sent us all chicken soup and hot chocolate.

At one point, Superintendent Chang stepped out in the frozen night where he was immediately surrounded by parents who wanted a word with him. He would be forgiven if his thoughts wandered to Los Angeles, the city he left for this job. He may have wondered what he had done in his life to deserve to be thrown in this frigid maelstrom of parental discontent.

12439138_10153714909996187_693822602580291056_n

And at the end of the day, we still have a lot of work to do. We aren’t going anywhere. We will be an affliction on the powerful until our children’s schools are funded and their education is valued.

I was going to leave you with a link the Superintendent’s response sent out the next day. But instead, I am going to leave you with a more important letter. This is from a mother in East Boston writing about the impact of the budget cuts on her child’s school.

CZQ_ywgWQAAkn0O

 

How to Stop the BPS Culture of Cuts

CY47oFkW8AA2KKp.png-large

 

Do you want to help turn things around? There are many things you can do:

A. Sign the Move On Petition:

http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/stop-budget-cuts-to-boston?source=c.em.mt&r_by=10237357

B. Join us to protest the State of the City Address:

What: BPS Protest at the State of the City Address

When: Jan. 19th at 4:30

Where: Back of Symphony Hall on Westland Street near the Pops sign. This is where the mayor will be entering the hall.

Why: Boston Public Schools is facing a multi-million dollar deficit resulting in severe budget cuts to schools and services. Over the last two years, Boston Public Schools have seen $140 million dollars in budget cuts. This year, Marty Walsh is proposing $50 million more that will deeply impact High Schools and Special Education services. Some schools are facing a 19% cut in their overall budget.

Join us to let the mayor know that this is an unacceptable way to run a school district. Bring your own sign about the budget!

And bundle up because it is going to be cold.

Email: lewispierce at gmail dot com

C. Email your state senator and representative: 

1. Read whatever you need to in order to understand the issue:

https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2016/01/12/boston-schools-face-million-budget-shortfall/dg4Emkps2wD06lNLHqvpJN/story.html

https://redeemthethought.wordpress.com/2016/01/14/what-happened-to-ms-bs-job-the-facts/

2. Go to the following website and look up your state senator and representative:

http://openstates.org/find_your_legislator/

3. Send them an email like the one below.

Dear Senator/Representative X,

I am deeply concerned about the BPS budget shortfall this upcoming year. Boston Public Schools cannot operate on the limited budget that has been proposed, and it is clear that the calculations in chapter 70 are inequitable. In addition, we need more money allocated via chapter 46.

The district’s needs are urgent. Our children need your help.

Sincerely,

(Your name, phone number, address, and email)

4. Call them and reiterate what the email says so that there is a sense of urgency to the matter.

5. Spread the word. The more people who do this, the more movement we will get.

BPS Budget Cut Protest at the State of the City Address

We aren’t good at keeping things under wraps. There is a reason why I am not a CIA operative.

Anyway, here at the deets:

What: BPS Budget Cut Protest at the State of the City Address

When: Jan. 19th at 4:30

Where: Back of Symphony Hall on Westland Street near the BSO sign. This is where the mayor will be entering the hall.

Why: Boston Public Schools is facing a multi-million dollar deficit resulting in severe budget cuts to schools and services. Over the last two years, Boston Public Schools have seen $140 million dollars in budget cuts. This year, Marty Walsh is proposing $50 million more that will deeply impact High Schools and Special Education services. Some schools are facing a 19% cut in their overall budget.

Join us to let the mayor know that this is an unacceptable way to run a school district. Bring your own sign about the budget! And bundle up because it is going to be cold. 

And if you can’t come but support our cause, please sign this petition: http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/stop-budget-cuts-to-boston?r_by=10237357

StateoftheCity-2.png

StateoftheCitySPANISH.png

Austerity measures in a time of plenty

After a heated election, Martin J. Walsh was inaugurated mayor of Boston on January 6, 2014. Since that time, he has presented 3 years of devastating budget cuts to the Boston School Committee.

  • In March of 2014, the school committee approved 100 million in cuts and removed busing from middle school students.
  • In March of 2015, the school committee approved 40 million in cuts and closed two schools.
  • This year, the school committee is being presented with another budget that makes 40 million in cuts.

Boston Public Schools is now forced to cut into Special Education because there is nothing else to cut back on.

I want to ask you what do you see when you drive around Boston? Do you see the construction of luxury condominiums? Do you see the folks driving around in their luxury vehicles? Do you see the development that is happening all over the city?

We live in one of the richest cities, in one of the richest states, in one of the richest countries in the world. Yet, we can’t manage to fund our schools at a functional level. This is not a money problem. This is political leaders intentionally draining our schools of resources. The mayor and the governor are choosing to set our schools up to fail.

Do you think I’m being too harsh? Consider this. The one and only time Mayor Walsh appeared before the state legislature to talk about education, he used the opportunity to lobby for more charter schools. He has not gone to the legislature where he has deep roots to advocate for desperately needed funding for the school system.

The draining of public school dollars is intended to bring us to our knees so that we don’t protest when they close our schools. It is intended to divide school communities against each other. It is intended to make well funded charters look more attractive.

There is a constitutional mandate to fund our schools that our leaders are violating.

Remember, this is a choice our leaders are making.

Remember this the next time your school asks for donations so they can buy paper.

Remember this the next time you notice that school’s bathroom is filthy and lacking soap.

Remember this when teachers are fired from your school.

Remember this at election time.

And in the meantime, please sign this petition to Mayor Walsh and Superintendent Chang to stop the defunding of our schools system:

http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/stop-budget-cuts-to-boston?source=c.em.mt&r_by=10237357  

We will not accept this

logoGovernor Baker and House Speaker Deleo’s pledge to not raise taxes seems particularly cruel in the middle of BPS budget season. The bad news is being heard all around town as schools struggle with what to cut to balance their budget.

Boston Community Leadership Academy (BCLA) is a successful, high achieving school in Hyde Park that has been the recipient of the Thomas W. Payzant “School on the Move” Prize and also recognized as a “Bronze Winner” in U.S. News and World Report America’s Best High Schools.

 BCLA is also facing devastating budget cuts this year. They have been presented with an $800,000 budget deficit that they are expected to balance. It’s absolutely disastrous, and the staff believes that this budget cut will render their successful school completely nonfunctional.

But this school is not taking this lying down. They are standing up and fighting for their school. BCLA has rejected this budget and they are organizing the students and staff. They won’t let the district take away everything that they have worked so hard for.

As one teacher said, “This is unacceptable behavior on the part of the city.”

It is unacceptable. But it’s also unacceptable that the legislature refuses to fund charter reimbursements to the city.

It’s unacceptable that the governor is so concerned with the creation of new charter schools that he neglects real children in existing schools that are being gutted. Charlie Baker may be staying up late at night worrying about the children on charter school wait lists but he can barely raise an eyebrow of concern for the children who are in public schools.

It’s unacceptable that universities utilize Boston’s roads, public transportation and emergency services but they cannot make their PILOT payments.

Boston is not a “concept” or “an idea.” It’s a real city with real people and it needs to function. We have the right under the Massachusetts constitution to send our kids to funded, successful schools.

The children of BCLA deserve the respect and support of our elected officials.

Budgets are value statements. It’s time the city and state value our children.

To see what is happening at BCLA, follow Grace Evans on Twitter: @grace_h_evans 

 

 

Want to get involved?

Here are the education meeting dates for January:

Saturday, January 9, 10am The Citizens for Public Schools are launching their Opt Out campaign, 33 Harrison Street, 6th Floor

Monday, January 11, 6:30 Stop the Boston Compact (this isn’t really the name, we are still working on it), Doyles Café

Wed, Jan 13, 6pm: School Committee, Bolling Building (Wednesdays are horrible for me. I can never make it. I’m reduced to writing angry emails to the school committee.)

Thursday Jan 14, 6-8, Boston Education Justice Alliance Town Hall Meeting What is the Future for Public Schools in Boston? Madison Park High

My understanding is that the City Wide Parent Council will host a Boston Compact meeting. Once I know the date and time, I will let you know.

In a bit of a departure, I’m pleased with something BPS is doing

I know that this is way off brand for me but I’m excited about the expanded AWC proposal.

One of the most corrosive problems in Boston Public Schools has been the achievement gap for Black and Latino males. Superintendent Chang made expanding Advanced Work Class a priority in his 100 day plan as a means of addressing this.

Currently, kids take a test in the 3rd grade and then are invited into the program based on test scores. Not everyone who tests in takes a spot. It sometimes involves changing schools and many families do not want the disruption.

My son is currently in advanced work, and I have mixed feelings about the program. But what I like about is that he reads novel after novel, and his education is project based. This is because teachers in advanced work are given a certain amount freedom to craft the curriculum.

The expanded AWC plan, as I understand it, is this:

  1. Leave the current AWC program as is
  2. Test pilot expanded AWC classes in 5-10 pilot schools where the AWC curriculum and expectations are pushed into a general education classroom
  3. Review piloted classes after 1 year to see what effect they had closing the achievement gap

You know, I’m always complaining about what BPS is up to. But honestly, I think this is a pretty good plan. By piloting this in the general education classroom BPS will be able to see what did and didn’t work and adjust accordingly before expanding it across the district.

Now here is my concern. I am genuinely worried about how this overlays with the recommendations of the McKinsey report. Because if your overall aim is to save money for the district, and you start cutting staff, and you stream children out of their sub separate classrooms into the general ed classroom, at the same time you are pushing in AWC, you are going to end up with an instructor who is being pulled like a wishbone.

You can’t have it both ways. You can’t differentiate in the classroom and cut staff and increase class sizes. A differentiated learning environment requires individualized attention.

So this is my charge to the superintendent and the mayor. Make this work. IMG_3106Make AWC for all a reality. Make inclusion a reality. Find the money. BPS needs this. Our students need this. Boston needs this.

Put those teachers in the excess pool back into the classroom so that there are at least two teachers in every class. That is how this will work.

We can do this. Our students can do this. But we need you to put the resources in place so that this is set up to succeed.

You can view the entire proposal here: http://www.bostonpublicschools.org/cms/lib07/MA01906464/Centricity/Domain/1898/AWCexpansion121515.pdf