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Walsh will increase public education spending by nearly $5m

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Boston Mayor Marty Walsh greeted soon-to-be graduates before a ceremony at the Jeremiah Burke High School in Boston last Friday.
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh greeted soon-to-be graduates before a ceremony at the Jeremiah Burke High School in Boston last Friday.(Matthew J. Lee)

Mayor Martin J. Walsh said he plans to increase public education spending by another $5 million — part of his second attempt at a new budget with the City Council.

The mayor, aiming to quell public criticism, made the announcement in a post on Medium, an online publishing platform, on Monday.

Walsh said his revised fiscal 2017 operating budget represents a total increase of $18.2 million for the School Department over the last fiscal year, and a total annual investment of $1.032 billion.

Since he took office, Walsh said, the city has increased the School Department's annual budget by $94 million. That amount is likely to rise when the city reaches a new contract agreement with teachers, Walsh added.

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The Boston Teachers Union contract expires Aug. 31.

The mayor — whose preliminary budget was rejected without prejudice in a procedural vote by the City Council last week — said he will give the council a new version of the budget on June 20.

"I look forward to working with the City Council to pass this budget and strengthen our schools, as well as all our vital city services,'' Walsh wrote on Medium. "But as the process moves toward completion, I want to pause for a moment to look at the big picture."

But City Councilor Tito Jackson, who has emerged as one of Walsh's most vocal critics on public education, said that while he is encouraged by the additional funding in the proposed plan, it does not go far enough.

"Nearly all of the cuts at the school level remain,'' Jackson said. "And all of the new funding has been earmarked for programs at the central office level and that does nothing to benefit our students in the classroom."

He said the mayor's proposed spending plan leaves a $26 million hole that needs filling, urging the mayor and his budget staff to fully fund city schools.

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"The cuts that would affect autism students remain in place, meaning there will be fewer adults in autistic classes. For students who have trauma there is a 21 percent cut that is still in place in this budget,'' he added.

Walsh said the additional $4.7 million he is proposing will build on Superintendent Tommy Chang's long-term vision for Boston's public schools. Chang will present his plan for the additional investments to the School Committee on Friday for approval.

The money includes $1.2 million for the new Excellence for All Program to allow fourth-graders in 13 schools access to rigorous learning and boost Advanced Work Classes for a diverse set of students, the mayor said.

The rest of the money will go to other investments, such as improving operations, performance, and efficiency. It will be devoted to extended learning time to an additional 40 schools throughout the district. Remaining funds will cover a new transportation data system to track ridership, provide information to parents, and improve student safety.

The additional money includes funding for high school design work, translation work, and early education programs, the mayor said. It will also fund a School Department safety audit, long-term planning, and "a stronger culture of performance management.''

The mayor has had to reverse course since he first announced his schools spending plan. Days after students protested in March, Walsh said he would spare high schools from cuts that endangered popular programs and teacher jobs.

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Meghan E. Irons can be reached at meghan.irons@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @MeghanIrons.