March 21, 2010, emailed, read out loud in public testimony, March 24, 2010 at the BPS public comments portion of the School Committee meeting
Dear Superintendent Johnson and the Boston School Committee,
I am writing to express my concern about the impact of budget cuts, specifically on high schools. A quote in the Boston Globe about the BPS budget cuts, March 11th 2010, states:
“McDonough said his staff tried hard to avoid cuts that would directly affect students in the classroom … "
Are you aware of the impact the cuts have already had on students in the classroom?
- Students witnessed some of their most energetic and committed teachers lose their jobs.
- Every day, students encounter stressed out staff who don't have the support to handle the thousands of kids in their buildings and mustnavigate unsafe staffing levels.
- Students watched their most inspiring programs eliminated or reduced (ie. Connections at BLS – should be a model for the system - one of the best middle school curriculums I've seen - should be expanded system-wide rather than slashed….)
- They go to restrooms that lack soap and toilet paper.
- Students no longer get the writing practice necessary for AP and college preparation – the teachers (at BLS) can't grade 155 papers each and resort to multiple choice tests and vocabulary drills.
- At my son's school, BLS, students still have to answer to a media & city (& a school official who will remain unnamed in this letter) that doesn't acknowledge the economic diversity of the students and relies on outdated, inaccurate stereotypes, ignoring the 700+ Title I eligible students in the school. They rationalize diverting these students' funds to other schools. These students need books and other support that Title I could provide.
- Students see a system that values seniority over quality.While they are expected to adhere to high standards, the BPS doesn't expect the same of all their teachers.
Imagine if the BPS awarded grades based on age and birth date – all the January students got higher grades no matter how poorly they did – that is the current state of affairs with how the BPS is hiring/firing teachers in a state of budgetary crisis.
Have you discussed these ideas for improving the system?
- Revise the union contract and build teacher accountability into it to speed up the hiring/firing process so principals can control the quality of teaching.
- Eliminate the money you spend on busing private school students and put that funding back into the classrooms.
- Set a teacher/student ratio limit. 155 students:1 teacher is a joke – only students who can afford private tutoring or have parents who are educators get any attention.
- Set class size limits comparable to the large suburban schools – 25 rather than 33 for a science class with a lab so that the classes are SAFE and students can learn.
- Build on (rather than de-fund) your successes – look at the programs (ie. Music at Boston Latin School) that work. Don't follow the Massachusetts trend of wasting money on every education consultant that walks in with "The Answer" and de-fund successful programs. You have plenty of professional teachers in your system who already have great solutions – give them a chance (and get the bad teachers out of the system quickly).
parent of a 9th grade boy at Boston Latin School
Pictures Below from the teacher's union organized rally at the Boston Public School Committee Budget hearing. I am upset that they are refusing to negotiate and allowing their younger teachers to be laid off.