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


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