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What Boston’s Budget Cuts Mean For Schools

1 February 2016

Hey friends – a lot is happening with my school right now. Check out my twitter feed ( for updates about how budget cuts will affect Boston Community Leadership Academy, why we can’t let this happen, and what we can do about it. We need this story to get out – that we work at an amazing place, and the proposed cuts will destroy all of that. Boston is choosing not to fund high-quality education.

Yes, we at BCLA have classes that are smaller than the district average. Yes, we have teachers that are more experienced and more educated (read: more expensive) than average. Yes, we have classes and services and opportunities that far exceed the minimum that state and district mandates require. Guess what: that works.

Yes, it is expensive to run good schools. It is expensive to run programs that work.

No, we are not the first school to be eviscerated by drastic funding cuts from the district. Charlestown High School has for many years run a successful Diplomas Plus program, which gives overage and under-credited students a pathway to a high school diploma in a competency-based model. They just lost funding.

TechBoston Academy attracts a diverse staff and student population, places emphasis on rigorous education across grades 7-12, and educates students with significant learning disabilities AND the potential to sit in AP classes. They lost 12 teachers last year.

The Timilty used to be one of the best schools in the country, until its MCAS scores dipped one year and all of the resources that made kids proud to be Timilty students got converted into test prep and controlling behavior. Three years ago they lost $1 million – nearly 25% of their funding.

The English is the nation’s first public high school, and in the 1970s was the site of incredible student-led activism around desegregation. Then its resources were cut, and for the last 10 years the dedicated teachers at the English have labored under a system of state supervision that requires them to adhere to a strict pacing guide, a checklist system of what needs to be on the walls, a do-or-die emphasis on test scores.

The Burke has energized, intellectually engaged teachers and amazing, thoughtful kids, like every school in BPS. They’ve made great strides with their MCAS scores in the past 5 years. But they’re not funded at a level that would allow the school to build an authentic and supportive learning environment.

This isn’t just about BCLA losing $870,000, cutting nine staff, losing our leadership coordinator, our librarian, and every class that isn’t federally mandated. This is about decades of watching the bottom line instead of pursuing the high road: slashing school budgets instead of preserving excellent instruction for Boston’s kids.

These cuts will hurt BCLA. They will take away every support for students that we developed over our 15-year history. We acknowledge that those supports were possible largely because of our pilot school status, our curricular flexibility, and our young staff. We acknowledge that many BPS schools would have jumped at the chance to create what we created, given the funding and the opportunity. We acknowledge that now that our staff is older, and more experienced, and more educated, we are finally feeling the pain that many traditional schools experienced years ago. But that’s why we understand that this is all the same fight. Every school should have the flexibility and the fiscal resources we enjoyed for 15 years. Every school should have the ability to run small classes tailored to student needs. Every school should be able to craft their mission and hone their model, attract students to that model, and provide high-quality instruction that meets the needs of their population.

These cuts will hurt BCLA, but they will also hurt Boston.

They will hurt whatever remains of the notion that quality education can and should be publicly funded. We need to stand together and put a stop to this. We need to ask the superintendent why it is necessary to spend $110 million on transportation while schools wither and die. We need to ask the mayor why level funding for our public schools doesn’t seem to be a priority. We need to ask the governor why the city hasn’t been reimbursed for the students who leave to charter schools and then come back to BPS because their need aren’t met outside the district. We need to stand up together and say that enough is enough. There is enough money in our city to fund quality education. There is enough wealth in our state to pay the salaries of the best teachers in the country. There is enough talent and knowledge here to figure out a sensible way to fund what needs funding, trim what needs trimming, and reward what warrants rewarding.




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