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Boston City Council passes resolution opposing state takeover

In March, Boston City Councilor Julia Mejia testified before the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education about her opposition to a possible state takeover of Boston Public Schools. The state is performing its second review of Boston's schools, which could pave the way for the state to impose a receiver to oversee the school system. On Wednesday, the council passed a resolution opposing receivership.Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe

Boston City Council voted Wednesday afternoon to oppose a state takeover of the city’s schools, amidst the state’s second review of the district in less than three years.

The resolution opposing receivership followed an April hearing where City Council members, academic researchers, parents and teachers, the head of the Boston Teachers Union, and a former member of the state Board of Education testified against the prospect of state receivership.

“BPS is not without its problems, and we all know that,” said Education Committee Chairwoman Julia Mejia, the original sponsor of the resolution, who also testified in March before the state board against receivership. “But these are problems that can be solved by turning to the community, not by initiating yet another executive leadership retooling.”


The council passed the resolution easily. Two councilors, Michael Flaherty and Frank Baker, opposed the resolution but allowed the unanimous consent needed to pass the order at the same meeting it was submitted.

Flaherty and Baker both said they opposed a complete state takeover, but advocated for a “middle ground” such as a partnership with the state or targeted interventions in particular areas of concern, like transportation and safety.

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education recently gave Boston Public Schools a copy of an initial report based on the review, which is looking at, among other elements, progress overhauling Boston’s special education system, where a disproportionate share of Black and Latino students study in separate classrooms. The review could be used to make the case for receivership, although the state has yet to tip its hand.

At least one member of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has publicly urged the commissioner to intervene. But critics question whether the state has the capacity to take over Boston, with its 49,000 students, strong union, and complicated political landscape.


Supporters of the resolution Wednesday agreed that the district had serious problems, but said the possibility of receivership is a hindrance, not a help, to addressing them, especially at a moment when the city has a new mayor and will soon have a new superintendent.

“Having this over Boston Public Schools’ heads is stopping us from moving forward,” Councilor Ricardo Arroyo said.

Councilors cited analyses, including a recent one in the Globe, which have found a limited impact by the state in prior takeovers in three smaller districts, Lawrence, Holyoke and Southbridge. The Globe analysis of test scores, graduation rates, college enrollment, and a dozen other metrics in Lawrence, Holyoke, and Southbridge found the state has failed to meet almost all its stated goals for the districts, beyond initial improvements in graduation rates in Holyoke and graduation rates and test scores in Lawrence. The state took control of the Lawrence system in 2011, Holyoke in 2015, and Southbridge the following year.

“We have the tools that we need here to really help transform our schools,” said Councilor Ruthzee Louiejeune. “The state does not.”

The Great Divide team explores educational inequality in Boston and statewide. Sign up to receive our newsletter, and send ideas and tips to thegreatdivide@globe.com.

Christopher Huffaker can be reached at christopher.huffaker@globe.com. Follow him @huffakingit.