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Teachers, students, parents slam proposed BPS budget

March 15, 2017 GMT

Teachers, parents and students are blasting the city’s proposed school budget for next year, arguing it fails the most vulnerable students and widens the opportunity and achievement gap.

Although the proposed $1 billion budget provides a 3 percent increase in school-level spending citywide, parents, teachers and students who attended a packed final budget hearing at the Bruce C. Bolling Municipal Building this afternoon pointed out that 49 schools are expected to see cuts due to declining enrollment. The budget, the said, will see six of the city’s under-performing Level 4 schools and 23 of the district’s low performing Level 3 schools losing hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Prior to the meeting, city councilor and mayoral candidate Tito Jackson said, “The BPS budget before us is a failure.”

“It fails to pass the School Committee’s own achievement gap policy, instead it widens the gap,” Jackson said. “It fails the students who are in dozens of schools who are seeing the cuts — the vast majority of whom are in Level 3 and Level 4 schools.”

The cuts, which amount to about $13.6 million, would result in the loss of teachers, librarians and other programs, opponents said. Prior to the meeting, members of Youth on Board, the Black Educators Alliance of Massachusetts and the Citywide Parents Council called on Mayor Martin J. Walsh today to restore funding.

“My school being on the budget cut list scares me,” said Joseph Okafor, an 18-year-old Urban and Science Academy student. “I’d hate to see any student suffer.”

Antonietta Brownell, a parent of a student at the Curtis Guild School, asked: “Why are BPS students once again being harmed by cuts?”

School-by-school budgeting is based on student enrollment and student need under BPS’ weighted student formula, a funding system in which dollars follow students to boost school choice.

At the opening of the hearing, School Committee Chairman Michael O’Neill stressed the budget shows the district is investing more in schools.

“This is a budget that is going up 3.9 percent,” he said. “The vast majority of our schools are seeing fairly substantial increases... The dollars are following the students.”

The school committee is slated to adopt the budget next week.