2019 BCEE City Council Candidate Questionnaire

City Council candidates support action to dismantle major inequities in the Boston Public Schools

The majority of Boston City Council candidates favor democratic alternatives to the mayoral-appointed Boston School Committee, according to candidate questionnaires released today by the Boston Coalition for Education Equity. 

The questionnaires asked for candidates’ views on several major inequities in the Boston Public Schools. Twenty-nine of the 43 Council candidates responded, including seven of the ten incumbents. “Given how important education is as an issue in Boston, it’s great that voters have the candidates on record. The candidates do not all agree. There are some creative ideas along with some surprising views. This is all crucial information to me as a voter, a parent, and as a member of the BPS Citywide Parent Council,” said Lauren Margharita. 

The candidate responses are posted on the Coalition website here.

Democracy and the Boston School Committee

An overwhelming majority of the candidates who responded support a change in how our School Committee members are selected.  

Nearly 90 percent of the candidates said Boston Public Schools need a governance structure that is all or partially elected. “City Council has significant power in helping to restore democracy to School Committee selection. We hope the next council will exercise that power,” said Tanisha M. Sullivan, President of the NAACP Boston Branch. “A return to democracy and shared power in our education system would represent a sea change and strengthen the voices of families and residents across our city.” 

All but one respondent said the student member of the Committee should have a vote. Currently, the student can speak but does not have the right to vote.

“The questionnaire responses underscore the calls of families and community members to restore trust, accountability, and democracy in the governance of Boston schools. Many of the candidates see Boston of 1991 and Boston of 2019 very differently. They’re not looking at the past as predictive of the future; they’re looking forward with faith in voters. That’s inspiring!” noted Rachel Poliner of Progressive West Roxbury/Roslindale.

Exam School Admissions

All respondents agreed that Boston’s exam schools should more closely reflect the demographics of Boston’s population of children in grades 7-12. All except four supported changing the exam school admissions process. 

"Even as we approach the forty-fifth anniversary of Morgan v. Hennigan, the landmark case desegregating the city's public schools, we cannot hide from the simple fact that Boston Public Schools have re-segregated over the past two decades. And, as the Boston Globe has noted, the largest number of white students in any single BPS school is Boston Latin School. We will not be able to ensure that a high-quality, academically rigorous education is available to all students, regardless of race, income, or national origin, without reforming Boston's exam school admissions process,” said Lauren Sampson, attorney and civil rights fellow at Lawyers for Civil Rights.

School Funding

The candidates unanimously supported a change in the current BPS mechanism for funding schools to guarantee that every school has sufficient funds to provide basic education services. Under the current system, a small dip in enrollment can force a school to close its library or eliminate other important supports for student learning. Such cuts can set off a vicious circle that ends with the school closing. The Equity Coalition organized several events last spring to explore a better system.

"BPS needs to guarantee that each school can provide a foundational level of education, which requires a foundational level of resources, at the very least," said Ruby Reyes of the Boston Education Justice Alliance said. 

Private Fundraising in Public Schools

BCEE believes that private fundraising practices in Boston’s public schools are widening the already sizeable equity gap in BPS. The majority of candidates agreed, with 26 of 29 saying they would support changing private fundraising practices in BPS schools to make funding support more equitable. 

“It exacerbates inequities produced by our broken school funding formulas,” said Harneen Chernow, from the BPS parent group Quality Education for Every Student (QUEST). “Proceeds of these efforts go far beyond extracurricular items like field trips and lights at the soccer field, but impact academic enrichment—musical instruments, science labs, performing arts centers, technology, and additional personnel--giving students in schools with outsized private fundraising programs even more of a competitive advantage over their peers in Boston’s schools suffering from austerity budgets, crumbling ceilings and personnel cuts.” 

Several councilors and candidates offered thoughts about fundraising guidelines that would be more equitable. 

The Boston Coalition for Education Equity is a collaboration among civil rights, education, and community organizations across the city of Boston that are committed to dismantling education inequity.

Back to School with BCEE & the Boston City Council Race!

Too early to be thinking about back-to-school? Not for the Boston Coalition for Education Equity!!

This summer, we’ve been thinking about the enormous field of candidates for the upcoming Boston City Council Election and the important changes that a new city council could bring to public education in Boston.

With so many seats open and such a broad array of candidates the 2019, elections present a unique opportunity to make public education in Boston more effective and more equitable. So, it’s more important than ever that we know where the people we elect to represent us on City Council will stand on education issues. 

With the preliminary election happening on September 24, parents and education advocates have some summer reading to do! Learning about which council candidates will be the best picks to advance equity in BPS is important to all of us, but what are the key questions and where can we find answers for all of the candidates? They do not make Cliff notes for this. So what’s an education voter to do? 

The Boston Coalition for Education Equity has got you covered!

To empower Boston’s education voters, BCEE will develop and distribute a Candidate Questionnaire to all candidates for District and At-Large City Council seats on the ballot in Boston in 2019. We’ll collect and share candidates’ positions regarding public education governance, policies and funding and share them with the public on our website--so you can be well-informed and still have time to finish your beach reading!

Questionnaires are an effective tool for informing voters on candidates' views on education and fostering discussion on education equity issues facing Boston. They’re also a good way to let candidates know what issues are of concern to education voters in Boston. This is where we’d like a few seconds of your time to help!

Please use THIS FORM to send us your questions by August 5, 2019.

We’ll review your questions and issue our 2019 City Council Candidate questionnaire to all district and at-large candidates on August 8th. City council candidates will have three weeks to complete the questionnaire. We’ll format the results and share the responses, during back-to-school week in September--just in time for the home stretch of the city council preliminary election! 

After the questionnaire is released, we’ll host a series of Facebook Live events with candidates selected by our membership. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter or email us at BosEdEquity@gmail.com for more info--and enjoy the rest of your summer! We’ve got you covered.

Boston Coalition for Education Equity Weighs in on BPS Superintendent Search

Selecting a new superintendent of the Boston Public Schools is one of the most important decisions in our city this year and for years to come. For this reason, the Boston Coalition for Education Equity has engaged deeply in learning about the finalists by attending public meetings, sharing articles and reviewing video links about their work, as well as liaising with our members and colleagues in Boston and across the country. The Coalition includes more than a dozen community and civil rights organizations. We come to this search for a BPS superintendent with different perspectives, with stakeholders in different parts of Boston, and with different priorities for superintendent selection criteria. Nonetheless, one conclusion is clear to all of us.

We are dismayed at the process itself and disappointed in its implementation by the school committee. The search committee was not representative, the final public phase was rushed, and the School Committee’s own job description of five years’ experience as a school superintendent was ignored. Some of us believe the inequities in the process are so significant that the candidate pool should be revisited. If nothing else, this process helped to solidify the lack of confidence many of us have in the school committee structure.

However, despite this flawed process, most of our organizations believe that one of the finalists–Dr. Brenda Cassellius–has demonstrated that she has the experience necessary to be an effective leader in advancing equity and educational quality in the Boston Public Schools. Though she was an associate superintendent of an urban school district and superintendent of a smaller district for a short period of time, she was the Commissioner of Education in Minnesota for eight years, and from that we can gauge the efficacy of her executive leadership style and operational skills.

How the search process was flawed

  • The Search Committee was mostly made up of individuals chosen by the Mayor and the mayor-appointed School Committee to meet their objectives, rather than representatives of groups with independent voices who are directly involved in the schools. For example, the Citywide Parent Council, one of the district’s three officially recognized parent organizations that are tasked with representing Boston Public Schools families, was denied representation. Additionally, there was not a single independent Black parent on the Committee who was not also an employee of BPS.

  • The final, public stage of the process was carried out in a way designed to minimize family and community engagement: The finalists were announced during school vacation week, and the interviews were scheduled immediately afterward. Additionally, there was no child care provided to make it possible for more families to attend the interviews. The result: In the interviews supposedly organized for parent and community engagement, the lack of effective engagement resulted in a room with a handful of residents each night and scores of empty seats.

  • Then families had just five days to provide meaningful feedback through a survey. When the survey was initially rolled out, it was available in English language only. This in a district where 48 percent of students are in homes where English is not the first language. In short, BPS knows how to engage communities across the city. In this most important decision, the City made a conscious decision to not fully engage the community and not to create the conditions for working-class families to participate.

Why Dr. Brenda Cassellius would provide BPS with the best opportunity for success.

Nevertheless, we understand the need for our city to move forward in the best interest of children and to work together to address some of our most pressing challenges. We believe that Dr. Cassellius has the best and most promising chance of doing that. Here is why:

  • For years, Boston Public Schools leaders have imposed, or attempted to impose, changes from the top down prioritizing quantitative data over qualitative data. Any commitment to equity and racial equality requires close attention to both. Dr. Cassellius has demonstrated through her work and in her espoused values that she can lead with authentic inclusion and that she is not afraid of having more seats at the table to bring about much-needed change. In her interview, she pledged to start by finding out from those directly involved what has worked and what has not worked, and to tap into their knowledge in crafting policies to improve the education of all BPS students.

  • In this city, the success of a superintendent is driven largely by her ability to understand and successfully navigate deep political waters. Eight years as a state education commissioner, with a reputation for getting the right things done for children of color, English language learners, and those with disabilities, serve as evidence that Dr. Cassellius has the political chops to move this district forward.

  • As Education Commissioner in Minnesota, she won agreement from a wide range of legislators for the funds needed to expand preschool.

  • Even before her years in state government, she used her executive and operational skills to advance equity for the children of Memphis, Tennessee, and Minneapolis, Minnesota. In Memphis, she eliminated corporal punishment, turning around a culture where “spare the rod and spoil the child” was assumed to be wisdom.

  • In Minneapolis, she worked with the elected school committee to change policy to eliminate selective admissions criteria for the few high schools with International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement curricula and extended these high-level academic programs to all comprehensive high schools, evidencing a strong commitment to “tearing down fences” and removing barriers to high-quality education--using a racial equity lens so that more students would be better prepared for college or career upon high school graduation.

Dr. Cassellius has demonstrated an ability to see students as whole individuals, to see schools as whole communities, and to support policies that can be life-changing for students. Recognizing that there are many difficult decisions ahead, we believe Dr. Cassellius has the greatest potential to be the leader BPS needs. She offers a vision for this district that aligns with our values and is coupled with experience, skills, and the leadership style to achieve that vision. We look forward to working with her for the benefit of all students.

Download the statement here.

The Boston Coalition Launches with Budget Equity Week

What are the essential programming components of a quality school? It’s a question that no one ever asks of Boston families, children, principals, or teachers. With limited resources and a school choice system where the money follows the student, principals and School Site Councils are forced to make difficult budgeting decisions each January. A music teacher OR a librarian; a reading resource specialist OR a computer teacher.

We have had enough.

The Boston Coalition for Education Equity – a group of civil rights, education, and community organizations – have joined together to push for decisive action to end these long-standing funding and opportunity inequities in the Boston Public Schools.

Over the course of the next several months, we will highlight the problems within Boston Public Schools as we see them with an Equity Week, and we’re beginning with the problem that we see as the core of so many issues of access and equity in Boston Public Schools: the budget.

Over the course of the next week, we hope to open up a citywide conversation inviting everyone to dream bigger for our children. An art teacher AND a full time nurse. A family resource coordinator AND a bus monitor. Join the conversation; tell us what you consider to be the essential elements of well-rounded, quality education by filling out this form here.

From Monday, March 18th through Friday, March 22 we will be engaging with Boston families, teachers, and the community in a number of ways to strategize the path ending the budgeting process that creates “winning schools” and “losing schools” each year. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter to view budget related content all week.

We begin the week with a conversation about equitable school funding with Professor Bruce Baker of Rutgers School of Graduate Education.

Join the conversation live on Tuesday, March 19th at 6pm!

BPS Budgeting: Hunger Games vs. Quality for All

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