Sunday, January 18, 2009

Letter to one of the Councilor's at Large

Tonight, I wrote my Boston City councilors, the four "councilors at large" and the mayor. I tried to personalize each letter in the first paragraph. Here is a sample, thanks for any comments on improving:

Dear Councilor Connolly:

I am a resident of Ward 20, Precinct 20, West Roxbury, MA. I am writing to express outrage at the proposed budget cuts to the Boston Public Schools. On your web site, it states that you are a former teacher who "has been a strong voice for improving Boston Public Schools" so I am very interested in your response to this budget.

My oldest child attends Boston Latin School. As you probably know, this is the city’s largest high school with 2,440 children. 20% of Boston public high school students attend this school! It already has the burden of the highest student teacher ratio of all the high schools – 27:1 and still hasn’t recovered from budget cuts of five years ago.

The BPS formula states that a school of Boston Latin's size needs 132 teachers; the proposed budget cuts it down to 99. It will become dysfunctional at that staffing level.

My sense is that the “system” expects parents to magically finance this budget gap (with private tutors, outside programs…) because of the school’s reputation even though almost a third of the students qualify for free/reduced lunch (latest statistics on and many other families are just at the limit.

Although I currently earn well under six figures, until now, I was confident that my child had as good a chance as any suburban child to receive an excellent education due to high academic standards at this Boston Public School. The budget for next year would gut this level playing field.

The current proposal by the Boston Public Schools means that:

********* 100 or more of the youngest students will spend 30% of their school day warehoused in the cafeteria with 2 
adults to supervise.

********* High school students will lose 20% of their academic opportunities, 5 rather than 6 academic subjects. This would instantly diminish college opportunities for hundreds of poor and working-class students in Boston who attend this school in order to gain entrance AND scholarships to college.
********* Advanced placement classes will be canceled. Again, students’ chances for college and scholarships would be greatly diminished.

********* The Arts programs will be eliminated. Research in education over the last 20 years has expanded our knowledge about how teens and young adults learn, communicate, and understand the world. For example, Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences has shown that the arts play a vital role in improving students’ ability to learn. At the BLS winter concert, students paused before their performances to state point blank that they would not be in school today if not for the arts. I wish you could have heard those statements.

********* PE and health and at least one guidance counselor will be eliminated. Again, given the recent incidents of violence in public schools -- think Columbine -- cutting a major stress outlet for young people who are already under tremendous pressure is short-sighted. It poses a public safety risk for the school and the city.

It is disturbing that the city and state are punishing the very students who are making the “right choices.” The ones who get up at 6:00 am to be at school promptly at 7:40 am after taking the MBTA through Boston traffic (!!!!) and then return home to do hours of homework a night.

Thank you for doing everything you can to stop these budget cuts.

Sincerely yours,

Lisa Link, (home phone number listed here)

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