Walsh says he would create universal preschool, work with union to lengthen school day

If elected mayor, State Representative Martin J. Walsh said today, he would expand early education access so that all 4-year-olds can attend preschool in the Boston Public Schools.

In his education plan, Walsh also called for an annual review of the Student Assignment Plan that determines which school each Boston student attends and for a City Hall office to ensure families have access to schools closer to home.

“The foundation of Boston’s future success and economic viability is our schools,” Walsh said in a statement. “We need to build on the current strengths of our school system, but we face some tough changes. As mayor, I will create a broad, long-term collaborative effort to ensure the highest quality public education system for every single child in every neighborhood of Boston.”

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His announcement follows the Boston Teachers Union’s endorsement Wednesday of two other candidates in the race, City Councilors Felix G. Arroyo and Rob Consalvo.

The union represents an estimated 7,000 teachers and 4,000 retirees, more than 60 percent of whom live in the city, said Richard Stutman, union president.

Walsh said in his education blueprint that he would engage the union as a partner in creating quality schools—in part by working with them on flexibility on extending the school day.

Stutman said Walsh’s proposal for a longer school day sounded similar to the one the teachers embraced.

“There has to be some flexibility built in,” he said, adding that the union disputed matters beyond compensation. “The issue was the time and how to use it.”

Walsh, a former Boston Building Trades Council officer, has picked up support from many trade unions. In his education policy, he reiterated his plan to create a School Building Oversight Council that would build, renovate, and maintain a supply of quality schools.

He would maintain a School Committee appointed by the mayor—rather than reverting to an elected board, as some propose.

“Voters want to know the mayor is ultimately accountable for the quality of the public schools,” his plan states. “As mayor, Marty will not shirk from being accountable.”

Walsh also pledged to redesign the school district’s central office to promote equity, better serve schools, increase autonomy, and hold schools accountability for results.

On preschool, Walsh acknowledged that it won’t be easy to find the money or the space to offer universal access to 4-year-olds—classes known in the Boston schools as “Kindergarten 1.” While the district offers full-day Kindergarten to 5-year-olds, it has space for less than half the city’s 4-year-olds. The program costs an average $7,000 per child, Walsh said.