Boston Superintendent Brenda Cassellius on Wednesday presented a $1.26 billion budget proposal for the next school year, representing an $80 million increase in spending over this year.
Key aspects of the budget plan include an additional $19 million for 33 schools that are under pressure from the state to boost standardized test scores and other benchmarks, such as graduation rates. The proposal also calls for more opportunities for students to receive art, music, physical education, and mental health services.
Cassellius, in developing her proposal, got a financial boost from Mayor Martin J. Walsh, who has promised to increase the amount of money going directly to schools by $100 million over the next three years — on top of the normal budget increases, such as for rising salaries and utility costs.
The School Committee will spend the next several weeks deliberating over the proposal and will hold a series of budget hearings before voting on March 25. The proposal will then be incorporated into the mayor's budget plan that he will submit to the City Council in the spring for approval.
Here are some highlights:
Walsh’s extra $100 million over three years. Boston schools would get $36 million of that next year; $19 million would go to the 33 low-performing schools, while the rest would be divvied up among schools districtwide for such expenditures as computers, textbooks, teacher training, and student academic support.
High school overhauls. A key aspect of the budget would raise graduation standards by having high schools adopt MassCore, a state-recommended set of courses that align with state university admission requirements and include such measures as four years of math and English. The proposal would also assist high schools interested in adding seventh and eighth grades. Cassellius said she expects decisions about which schools will expand will be announced in the spring.
State aid remains scant. The city is expecting a slight increase in state aid under the school-funding bill that passed last fall, boosting so-called Chapter 70 funding to $230 million next year, a city official said. But Boston will also pay out $235 million in charter-school tuition, which will come directly from the city’s state-aid allotment. That won’t, however, leave city with no state education aid. The state will reimburse the city for some of the charter-school expenditures, ultimately enabling the city to recoup $40 million in state aid for the School Department.
That amount is actually less than the approximately $50 million the department got this year. But as a city official pointed out, next year’s amount would be even less if the new school-funding law didn’t tweak the reimbursement formula. In the long run, the city expects the new law will eventually leave more state aid for the 125 city-run schools.
Cleaner buildings. The budget proposal calls for 25 additional custodians.