Monday, June 27, 2016

4 Boston City Council Hearing FY17 Budget Testimony

Below is the transcript of my prepared testimony for the June 27th, 2016 Boston City Council (BCC) Ways & Means Hearing on the Boston Public Schools' FY17 Budget Amendment which will add $4.68M to the previously submitted BPS budget for FY17. This was the last hearing prior to the City Council vote on the FY17 city budget on Wednesday, June 29, 2016. 


Please note that I was testifying in both my role as one of the Co-Chairs of the Boston Citywide Parent Council (CPC) and as a BPS, public and special education advocate and extremely proud parent. The first part of the testimony is from the email sent by the CPC Executive and Budget Committee to all Boston City Councillors on Friday, June 24th, 2016. The rest is my own testimony.  


Good Afternoon: 
First, the Citywide Parent Council would like to reiterate our gratitude to the Mayor for adding $4.7 million to the current budget proposal. Video of the BPS School Committee hearing to vote on the additional money can be viewed here
However, much of the additional money has been allocated to fund positions in the Central Office and does not offset the $26m reduction that will have significant and very real impacts upon building level budgets at schools in every City Council district in this city.
In light of these cuts, we urge you to reallocate the Mayor’s $4.7 million directly to support students and families at the building level
We have prepared the following recommendations for your consideration:
Recommendation 1
$2.2m for partial restoration of Weighted Student Funding cuts for students with Autism and Emotional Impairment.
Recommendation 2:
$1.2m to support the rollout of the Excellence for All Program. 
Recommendation 3
$900,000 to completely reverse ALL cuts to the District’s Early Learning Centers
Recommendation 4
$375,000 to support Superintendent’s initiative to improve student safety

The following is my own additional testimony:

Ideally, we would ask that our City Council demand that the mayor go further and add the additional $26M  necessary to restore all the cuts his decision on the BPS budget has made. If the mayor will not agree to the additional funding, then we would ask that you vote NO on the budget. To do so would be showing all of our current and potential BPS families that our city council highly values our Boston students. Of course, it would also revert us back to last year’s budget which would be horrific for our students and schools.
Mayor Walsh is correct, this is the largest BPS budget ever. However, what he fails to mention is that, since the founding of public education in this country right here in Boston, every year we have added to the school district budget. In fact, his (now) 1.8% budget increase is well below many prior years’ budget increases for BPS when you look at our history.
For several years I and others have asked for a fully transparent BPS budget – an itemized, line-by-line breakdown to see where every cent is going that BPS receives. To date, we have never received such a breakdown. This needs to change.  
Without a doubt, we need to explore more deeply how to reallocate funds when it comes to the BPS budget. However, this year’s reallocations have led to cuts that will harm our students. The cuts that have been made are not the cuts that needed to be made. The programs, services and changes to programs directly impacting students, especially those with social-emotional needs or on the Autism Spectrum, did not need to be where we cut this year.
I fear these cuts will end up costing the city far more than we may save in the short-term.
A compromise I would like to suggest that may be more palatable to all of our students, families, schools, BPS, city council, and possibly even Mayor Walsh,and which may lead to less likelihood of repeating the cycle of bleeding our schools dry, is to:
  1. Require that BPS reallocate the funds as outlined in the CPC’s recommendations above;
  1. Advocate to Mayor Walsh for the city to provide “soft-landing” money to schools for the next year to address the cuts which impact BPS students directly by working with the city council education committee, CPC and SpedPAC leaders to identify the school cuts needing said funding (other than those outlined above);
  1. Require that BPS provide a complete line-by-line budget breakdown on its website; and,
  1. Request that BPS and the mayor’s office, with CPC and other officially recognized BPS groups (SpedPAC, DELLAC) designees as full team members, delve into the BPS budget to identify areas where reallocations are needed or should be made to ensure that every possible dollar truly benefits our students and gives them a high quality education.
Thank you for your consideration of our requests and my suggestions. 
Karen Kast-McBride
Proud BPS parent and CPC Co-Chair
PLEASE be sure to email, call, visit, tweet, message, snapchat, instagram - whatever works best for you - the Boston City Council members also regarding the importance of increasing funds to BPS! Email and phone contact information, along with a template email, means you can do this quickly! BCC will vote Wednesday, June 29, 2016 - meeting starts at noon.

Usually I do not read my testimony, as many times I create it on the spot, but I did read the majority of the first portion because it was the ask of the CPC and at that point I was testifying as the CPC Co-Chair. Even when I write my testimony before a hearing or meeting, I do tend to go off-script in order to address things I hear while at the hearing. This time was no different during my own personal testimony...

Councillor Linehan had commented earlier in the hearing that $20K per student should be more than enough to educate them, also implying that it was actually too much to be spending. This misconception that $20K per student is spent directly to benefit each student is one of my biggest pet peeves - though Mayor Walsh's consistent reiteration of the (very wrong) "93,000 seats" for BPS students has taken the number one spot! 

If you would like to see the video of the hearing the City of Boston Cable Office should have it up within the next day or so (usually.) In the meantime, my testimony is available here.

Have questions or just want to see what I am working on? Feel free to email me or follow me via Twitter: @BPSNightmare

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

0 Boston City Council Members - Reject Mayor Walsh's FY17 Budget

UPDATE: According to Boston City Council President Michelle Wu: No BPS or General Boston budget vote today. Budget version 2 will go to committee and there will be a hearing on revisions Monday, June 27 at 11:00 a.m. (Boston City Hall 5th floor). The final vote will be on June 29th.

What does this mean? 

  • More time to spread the word and ask family, friends, neighbors, groups and everyone you know to email, call, visit and use social media to demand that our Boston Public Schools be, at the least, level funded! 
  • Time to plan our next steps for Monday and next Wednesday!
  • Because this will now only allow one vote prior to the June 30th budget deadline, City Council is more likely to pass the budget, so we must take action!

If you are interested in getting involved in next steps since we now have more time, please email me!!

At last night's Citywide Parent Council (CPC) meeting we decided to put together a draft email for all Boston residents to use to ask City Councilors to reject the FY17 Boston budget at today's hearing. Below is everything they need to email the Councilors:
  • the email addresses for all City Councilors, 
  • a subject line to use (to ensure they are recognized as the same ask) 
  • and the template email for folks to personalize before sending. 

Please remember to DELETE items in RED and any of the notes below before sending!

If you have questions, feel free to email me directly.

You will also find below
  1. A great graphic created by John Lerner which shows the percent spent by cities and towns on education out of their budgets. This disproves the "Boston spends more than anywhere else on education" mantra by Mayor Walsh et al.
  2. List of the City Council Hearings (which I edited to get rid of old meetings) showing the two potentially scheduled city council votes on FY17 budget.
Don't know who your City Councilor is? Find out now!

If you want to watch the hearing and vote you can do so online.

Follow along on Twitter and Facebook. Make sure to follow the city councilors, and those who are always on top of the budget issues:
Kristin Johnson,
Kenny Jervis,
Heshan Weeramuni,
Mary Lewis-Pierce
and me (though my posts will be sporadic)

List of city council members which includes phone numbers - if you have family, friends etc who don't like technology! 

Please:
1) SEND YOUR EMAIL first!!!!
2) SHARE WIDELY! Ask everyone you know to email and call RIGHT NOW and - if possible - stop by city hall in person before or during the hearing which will be held in City Council chambers on the 5th floor of Boston City Hall. 

City Council Email Addresses to copy and paste into your address line:

Subject line: Reject Boston’s FY17 Budget Until BPS Funded Correctly

Copy, paste & personalize:

Dear Members of the City Council,

I am a Boston resident who is extremely concerned that our Mayor is devaluing our students and their futures despite the wealth of our city. First, I want to thank you for refusing to pass Mayor Walsh’s FY17 budget at your June 8, 2016 hearing. You clearly heard the voices of all of the students, families and community members regarding the harmful effects the BPS budget cuts will have on our most vital resource: the students who are the future of our city.

Now, as you are no doubt aware, since your vote on June 8th, Mayor Walsh has added an additional $4.68M to the BPS budget. Unfortunately, though appreciated, with the exception of a small percentage (approximately 36%), the majority of these funds will never reach the school level, our students directly or offset the detrimental and, in some cases, potentially harmful cuts impacting all of our BPS students. Even with this sudden influx of $4.68M, which is still about $25M short of the funds necessary to level-fund our BPS schools, the Mayor is clearly not prioritizing our students or their education.

In the long run, many of the choices now being made for BPS to the tune of “we don’t have the funding” may lead to many costly, and potentially precedent setting, legal cases which will cost the city far more than what we are demanding now.

So today, as you prepare for your second vote on the FY17 budget, I am writing as a resident(, voter, BPS parent and Citywide Parent Council member - Feel free to also insert your school and/or other affiliation or anything else you think important to personalize this AND DELETE THIS COMMENT and anything you do not use!) to ask that YOU prioritize our students and BPS schools by once again rejecting the FY17 budget until Mayor Walsh, at the very least, funds our Boston Public Schools to ensure that we maintain the current level of supports our students had during the 2015-2016 school year. 

I expect every one of you who represent Boston to join me, my fellow residents, BPS students and families to insist that Mayor Walsh again dig into the city’s purse to restore the cuts that are already negatively impacting all of our students, especially those with language and special education needs. Anything less is ethically and morally reprehensible and unacceptable in an elected official.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Your Name
Address
(Phone Optional)
School or other affiliation







Have questions or just want to see what I am working on? Feel free to email me at karen.kastmcbride@gmail.com or follow me via Twitter: @BPSNightmare

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

0 Walsh's Woe: Boston Public Schools Families Protesting State of the City 2016


Well, if you are a resident of Boston or a Boston Public School community member you may have heard that there is going to be a protest tomorrow afternoon before Mayor Walsh's State of the City address. The protest, already making news on Twitter using the hashtags #SotcProtest #SOTC16, has been getting a bit of news coverage

Why are the #handfulofparents protesting? Short answer: BPS budget "shortfalls*." Bet you are thinking, I heard Mayor Walsh has said he did not cut the budget and in fact is generously giving BPS another $14M to bring the BPS budget to a whopping $127B total! And rumors are that Mayor Walsh will be announcing a bit more money to add to that! Geez, BPS families and students sure are asking for a lot! What is the issue - you should really be able to educate every student with that kind of money! 

This protest is about the "shortfalls" to our BPS budget and despite Mayor Walsh's request that BPS "trim down" central administration which ALWAYS seems to trickle down and negatively impact ALL of our students and schools more than the central administration. Even with the central office trimming down, that doesn't stop the bleeding that happens at the school level - and quite frankly, if nothing changes then pretty soon BPS will bleed out completely. 

Shortfalls - however they happen and no matter what we call them- translate to actual cuts at the school level. Cuts which eliminate positions, services and programs like:
Nurses: It is rare to have a BPS school with a full-time nurse - better hope those students don't need emergency care except during that nurses' hours at the school; 
Teachers: Why do we need science, math, language, history or special education teachers? STEM? Eh, whatever, city students don't need that stuff - we are preparing them to WORK, what do they REALLY need to know to press a button or say "Welcome to Walmart"?!; 
Libraries and/or Librarians: students only need to read the items which will be on the MCAS/PARCC - so really no need for literature or fictional reading!;
Programs: Art - they can draw, sing, dance or play instruments at home! Sports - what obesity problem? Specialty programs - all they need to pass high stakes testing is ELA, Math, a bit of Science and we TELL those teachers WHAT to teach them for those! 
Supplies: computers? paper? toilet tissue? bottled water? Pshaw - the teachers that DO remain are getting paid so well, they can buy it!
The above is brought to you by me channeling my inner non-BPS parent 1% corporate ed reform political donor - to my regular readers, I apologize!

Maybe now you are beginning to think, well... maybe there is something wrong here (at least, I hope you are!) - students need more than just Reading, Writing (oh yeah, no cursive in schools anymore!), Arithmetic and testing. Wow, Boston is a very rich city, why do the public schools have to keep eliminating so much? 

That, dear reader, is the 127 billion dollar question! The answer: declining federal and state funding for education, costs taken out of the BPS budget for students who attend other schools, and rising costs all contribute to the issue.

Mayor Walsh is correct, he did not cut anything from the BPS budget. And yes, we are thankful he has actually kept the "shortfall" from being worse by allocating that $14M to the budget - thank you Marty! Without it the "shortfall" would actually be $64M  instead of the $50M it still is with these added funds. Of course, this latest "shortfall" is in addition to the prior two years "shortfalls" totalling $140M. And really, this is just the tip of the iceberg. 

What do we want? After all, the BPS budget takes up a huge portion of the city budget, do we think Mayor Walsh can give even more? Well, another short answer: yes, and no. 

If the city can afford to give huge tax breaks to General Electric to entice them to make Boston the home of their headquarters and propose putting the city into debt to bring the 2024 Olympics, and let's not forget Indy Car racing; well, shouldn't there be a way to add more to the most important resource for our city, state and country: the education of every single student in Boston?

Additionally, we are asking that Mayor Walsh commit to, at the minimum,the following: 
  1. Join in solidarity with Boston’s students, families and community members to aggressively advocate for our Boston Public Schools at state and federal levels;
  2. Through strategic planning and ambitious revitalization, reduce the BPS budget shortfalls of $50 million this year and $140 million over the last three years;
  3. Invest in fully-resourced community public  schools with wraparound services for Boston's children;
  4. Work with the true stakeholders of Boston Public Schools: students, families, educators and community members to fully audit BPS’ budget in order to assess community needs and address inequalities; and,
  5. Collaborating with the true stakeholders, demand democratically controlled public schools through an elected Boston School Committee.


Who are we? We are the true stakeholders of BPS and come from all walks of life to take part in this movement to invest in our students and Boston Public Schools. We are every race, religion, economic and education level; whether we are for or against the Boston Compact, charter or traditional Boston public schools, love or dislike our elected leaders - we are all in agreement and solidarity where it counts the most: "Shortfalls" are still "cuts" at the school level!

Please join us before Mayor Walsh's #SOTC16 for the #SOTCProtest at 4:30 p.m. to demand that Mayor Walsh and our elected officials collaborate aggressively with us: the students, parents, educators and community members fighting to ensure that every single BPS student has the education and schools we deserve! 

It will be cold, so Mary Pierce and I bought quite a few hand warmers!

Please dress warm, grab some caffeine, make a sign - or use one that my daughters and I made - and join me and the awesome students, families, educators and community members! 

And yes, Bospoli, Mapoli - especially our Boston City Councilors, Massachusetts Senate and House of Representatives Boston Delegation members, Governor Baker and Lt. Governor Polito - we would hope YOU all will stop by to speak with us, otherwise, the next protest may be at your big event!

Have questions or just want to see what I am working on? Feel free to email me at karen.kastmcbride@gmail.com or follow me via Twitter: @BPSNightmare

Monday, January 18, 2016

1 BOSTON FAMILIES AND STUDENTS TO PROTEST MAYOR WALSH’S STATE OF THE CITY ADDRESS

MEDIA ADVISORY FOR: January 19, 2016
BOSTON FAMILIES AND STUDENTS TO PROTEST MAYOR WALSH’S STATE OF THE CITY ADDRESS
Boston, MA—On January 19, 2016, a broad-based coalition of public education stakeholders made up of families, students, educators, community members and groups representing public schools throughout Boston will come together at Mayor Walsh’s 2016 State of the City Address to protest budget shortfalls which negatively impact all of our Boston Public Schools. We are protesting the Walsh administration’s failure to aggressively advocate for adequate funding and to make the investments needed to create success for every single student in all of our Boston Public Schools.
DATE: Tuesday, January 19, 2016
TIME: 4:30pm
LOCATION:  Intersection of Westland Ave and Mass Ave Under BSO sign
We are demanding that Mayor Walsh, at a minimum, do the following:
  1. Join in solidarity with Boston’s students, families and community members to aggressively advocate for our Boston Public Schools at state and federal levels;
  2. Through strategic planning and ambitious revitalization, reduce the BPS budget shortfalls of $50 million this year and $140 million over the last three years;
  3. Invest in fully-resourced community public  schools with wraparound services for Boston's children;
  4. Work with the true stakeholders of Boston Public Schools: students, families, educators and community members to fully audit BPS’ budget in order to assess community needs and address inequalities; and,
  5. Collaborating with the true stakeholders, demand democratically controlled public schools through an elected Boston School Committee.


In Boston, the stakeholders have come together to build a new vision for our public schools and our children—one that champions great public schools as the heart of our neighborhoods and ensures that every student, regardless of zip code, receives the highest quality education available. Our stakeholders have developed a community-driven movement for the benefit of all of our students  and we will hold all of our elected officials accountable to us as their constituents and voters.
To follow this action on social media search #SOTCProtest
Check our our Facebook event page.
Contact:
Karen Kast-McBride Mary Lewis-Pierce
(617) 877-2871 857-891-3271


Have questions or just want to see what I am working on? Feel free to email me at karen.kastmcbride@gmail.com or follow me via Twitter: @BPSNightmare
 

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