Bumpy path ahead for Boston schools
The people have spoken about what they see as the way forward
Paul Grogan thinks charters, charter-like “autonomies,” and school closures offer the best path for Boston Public Schools. “We just need the fortitude to follow” this path, the Boston Foundation CEO concludes (“Building a path forward for Boston Public Schools,” Opinion, Dec. 7).
Who is that “we”? It’s not we the people, who roundly rejected ballot Question 2’s charter solution. It’s not the diverse citywide we crowding Boston’s school department to voice objections to the racial inequities and school closures found in the BuildBPS facilities plan.
If Grogan listened to this we, he would hear a very different story of what our city’s schools are and need. He’d hear civil rights and parent organizations tell him why the next BPS superintendent should be an experienced educator, able to work with communities to address opportunity and achievement gaps, not a top-down manager. He’d hear teachers document the student growth that test scores fail to measure. Students could help him see their schools as nurturing families, not “underutilized” buildings.
Those voices, speaking in Spanish, or Haitian Creole, or in the halting, eloquent tones of a student on the autism spectrum, exemplify fortitude. We just need to listen.
Lifting Boston’s charter cap would subvert voters’ will
I was taken by aback by Paul Grogan’s suggestion that the Legislature, Boston City Council, and the mayor of Boston subvert the will of the voters by contriving to lift the cap on charter schools.
For every Boston student that goes to a charter school, the city is assessed tuition. Even with the cap in place, Boston’s charter school assessment has grown dramatically — four times the rate of growth of Boston Public Schools funding over the last four years. During that time, the Commonwealth has flouted its reimbursement, shorting the city by $89 million. Before the no vote in 2016 on lifting the cap, I held a hearing to elucidate the fiscal impacts on the city if the ballot question passed. Even the conservative projections were devastating.
BPS educates the vast majority of Boston students. As teachers, principals, and families know, our students have higher-than-average rates of poverty, special education needs, English language learner challenges, nutritional needs, and families experiencing homelessness and mental health issues. Consigning more money to charter schools would only exacerbate these hardships.
If wealthy foundations would use their influence to advocate for fixing a broken funding system, I’d be the first to applaud. If they want to use their wealth to lessen the burdens on BPS of extreme income disparity and the soaring cost of housing in Boston that fuels so many problems for students, I’d be ecstatic.
But lifting the cap on charter schools? Emphatically no.
Boston city councilor at large
The writer chairs the City Council’s Committee on Education and its Committee on Homelessness, Mental Health, and Recovery.
There must be way to keep displaced students’ communities intact
Two discount store closings in Dorchester might leave an empty feeling for low-income shoppers (“For shoppers, an empty feeling,” Page One, Dec. 8), but closing two high schools is a punch in the stomach for low-income students who travel from Dorchester and other parts of the city to attend schools located at the West Roxbury Education Complex, a building in disrepair.
If the mayor’s schools chief can’t find enough space within her domain to relocate West Roxbury Academy and Urban Science Academy, why doesn’t the mayor’s chief of economic development, or a “secret Santa” business partner, work out a deal with one of the companies that leases the 80,000-square-foot site on Morrissey Boulevard or the Fields Corner shopping center site to accommodate these school communities intact, pending construction or repair of their school building?
Couldn’t some of the city’s transition fund to support displaced students through graduation be used to buy them some peace of mind by keeping them together with their schoolmates and teachers?