Budget shortfall blasts Boston Public Schools students

February 20, 2009
By

Due to the recent economic crisis, our government has been forced to make drastic cuts in services across our city, state and nation. One area harshly affected is public education. Toward the end of last year, Bos-ton Public Schools principals were notified by Superintendent Carol Johnson that they would be suffering from serious budget shortfalls this year. Over the past few months, students have gradually become aware that the programs that inspire them to learn are in danger.

The John D. O’Bryant School of Math and Science may be forced to close its library, with obvious negative repercussions—particularly for those students that may not have access to technology or books at home. Boston Latin Academy has submitted a proposal to eliminate the entire modern language department, which hinders global communication skills and leaves students bereft of the chance to explore other cultures. Boston Latin School will lose 14 classroom teachers and face drastic cuts in the arts, as well as the elimination of many Advanced Placement (AP) classes. However, many schools lack even these programs; the question remains, where will they cut back?

The Boston Public Schools have never recovered from the last budget cuts in 2004. Schools are already under-resourced and under-funded. Across the system, there is a tremendous opportunity gap we’ve barely be-gun to overcome. In our strategy for funding education, we cannot allow inequities to deepen. All Boston schools should be offering serious college preparatory curricula and programs like the arts that offer stu-dents meaningful learning opportunities.

We are facing an economic crisis, turmoil overseas and global climate change. The generation that must solve these problems is the generation that is currently being educated in our schools. To face our long-term challenges, we must invest in education. Building roads and providing tax cuts—two of the main propos-als in the recently-passed federal stimulus package—will create a short-term fix but do little to strengthen our long-term competitiveness or improve the future success of Boston youth.

Unhappy with the cuts afflicting our city, many are looking for someone to blame. There has also been dissension over the difficult decisions that will need to be made to cover the budget shortfall, such as a potential wage freeze for city employees, fewer transportation options to schools, a higher meal and hotel tax, and others. However, all groups working on this issue have the same goal—a fully funded and equitable education for all Boston Public Schools students.

The Boston Public Schools Student Alliance for the Future of Education (BPS SAFE) is dedicated to finding the most efficient and evenhanded solution to our budget woes, while working to build a strong coalition with all schools and community organizations who share the goal of an equal and fully-funded education for Boston students.

United, we have the strength to lobby the governor and state Legislature for more funding for the city of Boston in general and education in particular. The potential for harm to our schools is great, but so is the energy the proposed cuts have elicited, bringing together students, parents, and community advocates in an effort to fight for our future. It is important not to blame the schools superintendent or the mayor for the budget issue simply because they are the nearest political figures. In fact, while it is important to hold our politicians accountable, many support a fully-funded education, but have not been provided with the means to do so.

In addition to researching and working for the best solution possible, BPS SAFE is also dedicated to working with our teachers, parents, local unions, politicians, businesses and community organizations. The Students’ Alliance holds these groups accountable for their decisions. The stakes are too high for us to exclusively seek short-term solutions or fracture based on disparate ideologies. Please work with students to ensure a quality education for all. As Boston Public Schools graduate George Santayana said, “those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it.” By educating the next generation, we can stop the problems of today and prevent them from reoccurring.

William Poff-Webster
and Nick Parker
Jamaica Plain

The writers are Boston Public Schools juniors and cofounders of BPS SAFE, the Student Alliance for the Future of Education.

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