Jackson seeks school nurses, transit passes for students
Boston City Councilor Tito Jackson urged the School Committee Wednesday night to staff all schools with nurses, provide all high school students with public transit passes, and reconsider the closing of Mattahunt Elementary School.
Jackson, who is challenging Mayor Martin J. Walsh in his run for reelection, made his pitch for these ideas and others just before Superintendent Tommy Chang unveiled his $1 billion budget proposal for the next school year.
Jackson was one of only a few people to speak during public testimony about Chang’s proposal.
“We want to ensure our young people benefit in the prosperity of the city,” Jackson said, addressing a partially full meeting room at school department headquarters. “We have a ways to go.”
No parents, students or teachers spoke about the budget during the public comments session.
The proposal, which represents a 2.8 percent increase in spending over this year’s expenditures, avoids discussions of cuts and instead focuses on new investments, such as hiring more custodians, extending the day at dozens of schools, and providing more services to students who are homeless.
The city is setting aside $20 million to fund salary increases, should the School Committee and the teachers union conclude protracted talks on a new contract.
But the school system plans to reign in spending in some areas, such as for the central offices.
“We are really going to tighten on things like food, travel, and stipends,” Eleanor Laurans, the school system’s chief financial officer, said during the presentation.
About a quarter of the system’s 125 schools will also see their budgets decrease due to declining enrollment.
The proposal was relatively well received by the School Committee, which will hold a round of public hearings before voting on it March 23.
“I’m really happy to hear about the custodians and the homeless piece,” said member Alexandra Oliver-Davila.
But, she added, “I wonder how we are supporting some of the hardest-hit middle schools,” noting that Timilty Middle School in Roxbury potentially faces a steep budget cut next year.
Members did not address each of Jackson’s requests during the meeting, but it is unlikely the board will reverse its vote last fall to close the Mattahunt.
A new early childhood center, due to open in the building this summer, is already enrolling students for the next school year.
Laurans, in response to a member’s question, said that Jackson’s proposal for supplying transit passes could cost $3 million.