They don't have $18 million in New York money, but some 300 pro-BPS residents and teachers said tonight they will run a robust campaign to protect Boston public schools by fighting proposals that would lift the cap on charter schools, meld charter and BPS enrollment systems and cut $50 million from the budget of the nation's oldest public-school system.
They gathered in a meeting at Madison Park Technical Vocational High School called by the Boston Education Justice Alliance (BEJA), an umbrella group that includes parent groups, teacher and other unions and groups that support public schools. City Councilors Tito Jackson (Roxbury), Tim McCarthy (Mattapan, Roslindale, Hyde Park) and Ayanna Pressley (at-large) also attended.
"We're up against millionaires" who want to privatize education, Johnny McInnis, president of the Black Educators Alliance of Massachusetts, said. "We're seriously under attack right now."
BEJA Campaign Coordinator Marlena Rose said she found it amazing that BPS officials are looking to cut $50 million from school budgets even as city and state officials are planning $145 million in tax breaks and incentives for General Electric to move to this booming city.
Megan Wolf of the parent group Quality for Every Student said city plans to merge the application systems of local public and charter schools could hasten a BPS death spiral.
Charter schools will look more attractive to parents because they have higher test scores, and that will mean increased enrollment at those schools. But the test scores don't necessarily mean the schools are better, just that charter schools can game the system to some degree by either rejecting students who might score lower on standardized tests because they come to Boston in the middle of the school year and can use disciplinary practices that can be used to push out students, who then return to BPS - which not only has to take them, but which also has more students who need more help, because they have special education needs, are not native English speakers or are homeless, she said.
She added the Boston Compact, which is drawing up the proposal, is not subject to public-meeting or records laws - and is funded by the pro-charter Gates Foundation.
Heshan Berents-Weeramuni, co-chair of the Citywide Parents Council, said current BPS budget deliberations could further harm schools. He said that while Mayor Walsh has proposed a $13-million increase in the total BPS budget this year, BPS still has to cut up to $50 million from its budget because of negotiated salary increases and other new commitments.
Some 50 schools are facing tough decisions - Boston Latin School might have to cut the eighth-grade science it just restored (a BLS student at the meeting said the school, which requires students to take four years of Latin, is also considering cutting its college-level AP Latin class). The Boston Community Leadership Academy and the Snowden International School might have to cut their librarians, which could cost them their accreditation, he said. And all schools would see fewer visits from custodians and school nurses.