Monday, June 27, 2016

5 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



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