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Parents march to demand greater funding for Boston Public Schools

Posted by Jeremy C. Fox  March 21, 2012 02:09 PM

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BPS parent march City Hall.jpg

(Jeremy C. Fox for Boston.com)

Parents marched past Boston City Hall calling on Mayor Thomas M. Menino and the city to adequately fund the city’s public schools.

Parents of Boston Public Schools students marched from City Hall to the school department building on Wednesday to demand that the city “fully fund” its public schools.

“We’re here to make a statement that all Boston Public Schools need more funding. We need to invest in our future,” said Hilary Marcus, 48, one of the leaders of the group and the mother of a first-grade student at the Rafael Hernández K-8 School in Roxbury and a fourth-grader at the Curley K-8 School in Jamaica Plain.

The march came in advance of a school committee hearing scheduled for 5 p.m. Wednesday to discuss the fiscal 2013 budget and a budget vote scheduled for March 28. The parents are members of a Facebook group with more than 320 members called “Invest in our future. Fully fund BPS.”

Parents gathered on City Hall Plaza at noon and marched past the building changing slogans such as, “Public education is under attack. What can we do? Stand up. Fight back.” The marchers then wound their way up Court Street to the school department building, where they took turns speaking about the importance of education and the potential of Boston’s schools.

The group of about 20 also included parents from Manning Elementary School, Boston Latin School, and Boston Latin Academy.

Speaking before the march to the district's Court Street building, Marcus said the parents want the school committee, Mayor Thomas M. Menino, and the entire city to make public schools a top priority. Last month Superintendent Carol R. Johnson presented the committee with a proposed $856 million budget, up 3.1 percent over the current budget thanks to a cash infusion in Menino’s proposed municipal budget.

Peggy Wiesenberg.jpg
(Jeremy C. Fox for Boston.com)
Peggy Wiesenberg wore a 1990s budget button.
Marcus called for no cuts to existing services or facilities for the next budget year and said the city should be looking to expand the budget and improve schools in future years. Last year, the school department closed nine schools and merged five others into existing schools to reduce empty seats across the district.

“Public schools should not be closed or de-funded or funding reduced,” Marcus said. She believes the expansion of charter schools, which usually operate independently of local school districts and are publicly funded, is “a trend that is weakening the public schools, and we’re here to say enough is enough.”

Marcus and other parents said they would like to see lower student/teacher ratios in the district. According to statistics released by the district in April 2011, the average ratio was 22 students per teacher in grades 3 – 12 and 21 students per teacher from K1 – 2.

“Our teachers are usually fantastic. They need the support as much as we are asking for it,” said Asa Runefelt, 43, mother of a first-grade student at the Curley School. She said parents were out sharing the message today in part because teachers “are busy teaching.”

“That’s a big part of why we are choosing to stay here, because of all their work, and we know that with the right kind of support, they will be able to do an even better job,” said Runefelt, a Jamaica Plain resident originally from Sweden, which she called “the country of free education, free health care.”

Peggy Wiesenberg, who declined to give her age, is a former board member of the Citywide Parents Council and mother of three BPS alumni, the most recent graduating from Boston Latin School in 2008. She wore a button reading, “Fight for funding. Save our schools,” and explained that it was a souvenir of 1990s budget battles.

“The struggle has been ongoing, and the funding has never been adequate for the Boston Public Schools,” Wiesenberg said. “And what these folks are demanding is full and adequate funding and equitable opportunities.”

A spokesman for the school department expressed appreciation for the parents’ “passion and commitment to our schools” and noted that there are no current plans to close or consolidate schools.

“Mayor Menino has made the Boston Public Schools a priority in his budget every year, and this year is no different as he has committed to increasing our budget by 3 percent,” spokesman Matthew Wilder wrote in an e-mail.

“The reality is that we’ve lost millions in federal funds and the cost of business increases every year. We’ve taken the funds we have and are trying to use them as equitably as possible throughout all 125 schools in the city.”

Email Jeremy C. Fox at jeremycfox@gmail.com.
Follow Jeremy C. Fox on Twitter: @jeremycfox.
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BPS parent march Court St.jpg

(Jeremy C. Fox for Boston.com)

Asa Runefelt, in left foreground, and other parents marched outside the Boston School Department building on Court Street.

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