All levels of BPS community protest budget cuts
Teachers, students, and parents marched and chanted outside public schools across Boston early Wednesday to protest district budget cuts and proposals to expand charter schools.
Outside the Murphy K-8 School in Dorchester, picketers strode down Worrell Street holding signs reading, “Fully fund BPS,” and “I’m more than a test score.”
Jay Moloney, a science teacher at the Murphy for 15 years, said he marched for “respect for all students, not just a few.”
Moloney said he is concerned that district schools students are being deprived as taxpayer dollars are diverted to charter schools, which draw money from state allocations to school districts for each student they enroll.
“Here we are, the greatest nation in the world, and we’re arguing about giving our kids an education,” he said.
Across the city, outside the Tobin K-8 School in Mission Hill, math teacher Caitlin Gaffny said closing the district’s budget deficit would cost her school about $200,000 for next year.
“We’re expected to do more and more every year with less and less,” said Gaffny, an educator at the Tobin for 16 years.
Wednesday’s “walk-in” protests took place before the first bell at Boston schools to avoid disrupting the school day. The actions followed a massive walk-out protest two months ago, in which thousands of students left school mid-morning and staged a rally outside the State House.
After the walkout, Mayor Martin J. Walsh canceled planned across-the-board cuts to city high schools.
The Wednesday protests included about 50 Boston schools and were among dozens of protests nationwide planned for May 4 and promoted by the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, a national advocacy group, according to Richard Stutman, president of the Boston Teachers Union.
The union handed out 1,000 signs in advance of the Boston protests, which it organized in cooperation with the Boston Education Justice Alliance, the Massachusetts Education Justice Alliance, and other groups, Stutman said.
A spokeswoman for Walsh defended his budgeting for city schools, saying he has increased funding by almost $90 million since taking office in January 2014.
“Improving education for all children in Boston is Mayor Walsh’s number one priority,” the spokeswoman, Bonnie McGilpin, said in a statement. “He has and will continue to strongly advocate for securing additional state aid for Boston and reforming how charter schools are financed to better protect cities and towns.”
Schools Superintendent Tommy Chang praised the protesters’ advocacy.
“I welcome the peaceful and respectful dialogue and activism displayed by students, families, and educators who participated in today’s walk-in,” Chang said in a statement. “We all must work together to provide a high-quality, rigorous, and innovative education for the youths of Boston.”
Outside the Tobin School on Wednesday, protesters chanted, “S.O.S. Save our schools,” and, “Hey, hey. Ho, ho. These budget cuts have got to go.”
City Councilor Tito Jackson, chairman of the council’s education committee, told the crowd that a 1.3 percent increase in the school district’s budget for next year does not keep pace with the 3 percent inflation rate.
“We’re going to continue to fight for full funding of public education in the city of Boston,” Jackson said. “We know that this budget has over a $30 million gap, and it’s going to hurt autistic students, whose class sizes are going to go up. It’s going to hurt our students who have trauma.”
Outside the Murphy School, Elaine Kelley, a West Roxbury mother of a fourth-grade student at the school, said she worries about program cuts.
“I grew up in the Boston public school system, and I really believe in the education that it provides,” Kelley said. “It would be a shame to have further cuts [to] the music programs, all these other extracurricular activities.”
Murphy eighth-grader Vicktor Williams-Barros told the crowd that the city and the School Department are not treating students fairly.
“Every day, we’re working, but we still get less,” the 14-year-old said. “They expect us to raise higher by giving us less money.”