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.
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.