More than a dozen Boston families plan to launch a nonprofit Monday that aims to provide unbiased information about school issues across the city, at a time when debate over educational policy has become increasingly divisive.
The group, SchoolFacts Boston, intends to identify pressing issues facing families at traditional, charter, parochial, and private schools alike and come up with resources to help them navigate their way through. It has created a website that is expected to go live Monday.
It also is striving to build a family advisory board that represents the demographics of the city’s school-age children as well as each neighborhood. Currently 16 parents, including former city councilor John Connolly of West Roxbury, who represent 10 neighborhoods are on the board.
“I really like that this organization is not making it about public, charter, or private schools but looking at it more holistically as support for Boston families,” said Vernee Wilkinson, a member of the family advisory board, whose 12-year-old daughter attends an independent school.
SchoolFacts Boston says it will release reports, fact sheets, videos, and other information online and on social media. It hopes to help families make informed decisions about education issues affecting children.
One of the first areas they plan to delve into is school funding and budgeting. The advisory board, Connolly said, was frustrated that many schools in the city system have to fight each year to preserve programs and teaching positions and want to gain a better understanding of why it happens and if it can change.
“We want to find ways for families to work together for everyone’s children,” said Connolly, who described the website as a “one-stop shop for unbiased information.”
The goal is to build the advisory board over the next year to include 50 families, he said. He predicted that bringing families together who have a wide variety of viewpoints and disagreements over issues will generate interesting and healthy debate as they attempt to assemble impartial information.
Creating a board that mirrors the city’s school-age population would be a departure from many parent groups, in which the composition is generally a result of those who happen to join. And the racial and ethnic composition of school-age children living in Boston is notably different than that of the Boston school system.
For instance, of the 86,492 children between the ages of 3 and 17 who lived in Boston in 2016, 33 percent were black, 33 percent were Latino, 23 percent were white, and 8 percent were Asian, according to a report last year by the Boston Planning and Development Agency.
By contrast, of the 51,433 students enrolled in the Boston school system this year, excluding in-district charter schools, 42 percent were Latino, 31 percent black, 15 percent white, and 9 percent Asian.
A planning grant from the Barr Foundation is helping to cover the group’s startup costs.
Raushanah Muhammad, a Boston teacher whose daughter attends the school system, said she joined SchoolFacts because it presented “an opportunity to be part of solutions rather than just complaining.”
“I want to advocate for my own child and other families,” Muhammad said. “I really hope it unifies families in Boston.”