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Dear Harvard Students

14 February 2016

An open letter to my friends at Harvard, MIT, and other universities in the greater Boston area. Note for context: I dance with the Harvard Bhangra team, which consists mostly of nonwhite undergraduates who went to incredible public and private high schools, the kind that have students completing original research and taking organic chemistry. My non-teacher peers in the Boston area are top-level PhD students in astrophysics and economics. This letter is my attempt to make the challenges of urban education relevant to that audience.

If you’ve seen my posts on Facebook and Twitter in the past two months, you might know that Boston Public Schools is facing a $50 million dollar deficit. My school, Boston Community Leadership Academy, will lose $870,000, which means cutting nine staff, our librarian, our gym class, our Leadership program, and every class not mandated by federal law. It means the Community Leaders and paraprofessionals who keep our kids safe and our school functioning will be paid substantially less next year.

This is the mayor’s decision. Mayor Walsh gets to decide how much money Boston Public Schools has to spend. He will say this is the largest allocation to BPS in history, but that obscures the fact that everything gets more expensive every year, so his budget for the 2016-2017 school year actually represents a $50 million cut from current operations.

I know many of you don’t live in Boston. But 55% of Harvard’s campus lies within the city, and as a nonprofit institution, Harvard pays no property tax on that land.Harvard and MIT and Wellesley and Tufts thrive on the resources of this city, and Boston thrives on the energy of young people brought in by universities and hospitals.  This city has invested in you and in your education. So it would be kind of you, but also prudent, to return the favor.

I’m asking for your support. On Wednesday, February 17, teachers, students and parents from across the city will be meeting at City Hall at 10 am to tell the mayor that this is not acceptable. We will be asking, at the very least, for him to restore the $50 million needed to fund Boston Public Schools at their current level of operation. Then we’ll march to the State House, to remind the governor that he owes us money (approximately $124 million in charter school reimbursements), and to ask why he is allowing this divestment from public education to happen on his watch.

I know that the life of a Harvard undergraduate or grad student can seem very far from the life of my students. But you listen to Fetty Wap and Drake with as much reverence as they do. You say “it’s lit” and “lowkey” with only a minor hint of imitation. You’ve learned how to whip and dab and say “on fleek” months after they pulled that meme from a Vine.

My kids are growing up in a different world from where you went to high school. And it’s not because they’re less smart than you are. It’s because they’re black, and they live in Boston. It’s because they’re Hispanic, and their city has decided not to invest in their education. It’s because they’re not wealthy, and their lack of direct economic pull makes their concerns less important than those of General Electric.

I work in a safe, healthy place, and I don’t want to see it die. My students need your help.

Come to the rally on Wednesday. Call Mayor Walsh ( (617) 635-4500 ) and tell him that the young people who power a substantial part of Boston’s economy and culture don’t want to live in a city that divests from its children. Call your state senator and tell them to raise state aid for Boston’s schools. Come to the meetings below to articulate the importance of strong public schools.

Date/Time

Event

Place

Feb 17,

10am, 11am

“Walk-In” and Rally for Public Education

10am:  Boston City Hall

11am: MA State House

Feb 24,

6 pm

Regular School Committee Meeting

Bolling Building

2300 Washington St.

Roxbury

Feb 29, 6:30pm

Meeting with City Councilor Matt O’Malley

Doyle’s Cafe

3484 Washington St.

Jamaica Plain

Mar 7,

6pm

BPS Budget Hearing

English HS

144 McBride St.

Jamaica Plain

Mar 8,

6:30pm

Meeting with City Councilor Ayanna Pressley

Doyle’s Cafe

3484 Washington St.

Jamaica Plain

Mar 16,

5pm

BPS Budget Hearing and Regular School Committee Meeting

Bolling Building

2300 Washington St.

Roxbury

Mar 23,

6pm

Regular School Committee Meeting AND BUDGET VOTE

Bolling Building

2300 Washington St.

Roxbury

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