Metro

Boston students, parents decry school budget cuts

Boston, MA - 3/15/2017 - Olinka Briceno holds up a sign during a hearing discuss cuts to Boston City School at the Board of Education building in Boston March 15, 2017. (Keith Bedford/Globe Staff)
Keith Bedford/Globe Staff
Olinka Briceno protested at a hearing Wednesday discussing cuts to a handful of schools in Boston.

Many Boston students, parents, and educators blasted school officials Wednesday for proposing budget cuts to dozens of schools next year, resulting in potential losses of revered teachers, librarians, and programs.

About two dozen of them raised the concerns at a press conference before a budget hearing Wednesday night.

“We are supposed to lose over a million dollars, which probably means we will lose the teachers and classes we love,” said Hibo Moallim, a student at Brighton High School. “I only have one shot at getting a good high school education and this is it.”

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Superintendent Tommy Chang has proposed a $1 billion budget for the next school year, representing a 2.8 percent increase in spending over this year. The School Committee is slated to vote on the budget March 22.

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School district officials have said most schools will see increases in their individual budgets for next school year. But some schools, struggling with declining enrollment, are facing cuts in excess of $700,000, according to School Department data.

In addition to Brighton High, those schools include Jackson-Mann K-8 in Allston, Tyan Elementary in South Boston, Madison Park Technical Vocational High School in Roxbury, and Dever Elementary and McCormack Middle schools, both in Dorchester.

“Students I know would lose teachers, great teachers that they have built strong connections with,” said Joseph Okafor, president of the student body at Urban Science Academy, which is losing about $600,000. “Severing that tie can be so detrimental to a student’s academic performance.”

Michael O’Neill, the School Committee chairman, defended the budget proposal at the start of the budget hearing, saying that only 15 low-performing schools would see budget cuts greater than 1 percent of their current spending levels.

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In a memo to the board, Chang said he intends to set aside an additional $1.25 million for low-performing schools.

“Over 70 percent of students will be in schools that will see increases” in funding, O’Neill said. “The money follows the student.”

The Citywide Parent Council is circulating a petition asking Chang to increase the per-student allocation to schools by $10,000.

“Why are BPS students being harmed once again by cuts?” said Antionietta Brownell, secretary for the council, during the press conference.

Parents, students, teachers, administrators, and other advocates spoke about the negative impact of the budget cuts during the hearing and a School Committee meeting that followed. Some held signs with their school name or messages, such as “maintaining compliance is simply not enough.”

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Miranda Trezise, who has three children at the McCormack Middle School, lauded the school for creating a library from scratch and using innovative approaches, such as co-teaching.

“Budget cuts jeopardize this and everything for my children and their futures,” she said during the hearing.

Jhalen Williams, who attends Excel High School, urged school officials to pull back the recommended cuts.

“This budget doesn’t work,” he said. “Fix it.”

James Vaznis can be reached at james.vaznis@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeVaznis.