Marcela García was right to shine a spotlight on the significant amounts of federal relief dollars being made available to the state’s school districts in her March 30 Opinion column (“How will BPS spend the millions in stimulus money?”). This scenario is playing out across the state as school districts, particularly those with high concentrations of high-needs students, will be sharing in nearly $3 billion of federal recovery aid.
Brenda Cassellius, superintendent of the Boston Public Schools, correctly stated that this is money that should be spent on students, not adults. We can only hope so, but hope is not a strategy. Too often, without guardrails, funding increases have padded operations or increased payroll without effect for students.
Other than some nebulous language in the federal grant calling for general reporting of expenditures after the fact, there are no requirements for public input, transparency, or even oversight of spending decisions by elected or appointed school committees.
School committees should require that their districts create specific and detailed plans for the use of the funds, with public hearings and periodic votes of approval. The state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education should offer strong guidance for the use of the funds based on proven practices that accelerate learning, such as high-dosage tutoring and acceleration academies, while assisting in procuring these services at scale.
Enough time has been lost to the pandemic. Schools must move with equal amounts of urgency and transparency. Failure to do so would squander this tremendous opportunity.
Edward M. Lambert Jr.
Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education