These Boston students made a video to show what budget cuts will look like at their school

A group of Boston Community Leadership Academy students made a video to show the reality of budget cuts in their school.
A group of Boston Community Leadership Academy students made a video to show the reality of budget cuts in their school. –Screenshot from YouTube

Wearing a royal blue sweatshirt with bold white letters that spell out “Boston Community Leadership Academy,’’ a student acting as a tour guide welcomes prospective students to the Hyde Park high school. In the first half of video posted to YouTube, the tour guide walks the students through the school and explains some of the perks of the school, including AP courses, free SAT prep courses, and one of the biggest libraries in the district.

But in the second half of the video, a different tour guide explains the way the school would look after the projected budget cuts it could face next school year. There would be no AP history or biology course at the school, no SAT prep courses, and no librarian.

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Boston Public Schools is facing a budget deficit of up to $50 million in the coming year due to rising expenses and a decline in state and federal aid. Under the current proposal, Boston Community Leadership Academy would technically have a $650,000 budget shortfall. But Brittany Wheaton-Calloway, the school’s leadership coordinator, said the figure will be closer to $1 million once the costs per students with special needs are factored in.

“We have one of the highest populations of autistic students here, and the district pays a higher per-pupil cost for those students,’’ she said. “We also have a huge population of students with special social and emotional needs, and one of highest populations of English Language Learners. So when you look at the figure of what it costs a student in BPS annually, we have more layers that aren’t reflected when calculating the losses.’’

Richard Weir, a Boston Public Schools spokesman, said the actual budget shortfall will be closer to $650,000 — with $300,000 in cuts from the district, $50,000 in federal funding and increased salary expenses.

 

 

When they became aware of the magnitude of the cut, students began writing letters to city councilors. They also had a telethon last week to call all 550 parents at the school to let them know the extent of the cuts, and to encourage them to contact Superintendent Tommy Chang, as well as the mayor’s office.

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But Ricardo Cruz, a senior, said they needed to become more public with their campaign, which is why they created the video. They also plan on attending the first preliminary budget hearing Wednesday evening at the Bruce Bolling Municipal Building to voice their concerns. The final budget hearing is March 23.

“I’m not going to be directly affected since I’m graduating, but I have a younger brother who’s very interested in coming to BCLA,’’ he said. “And I wouldn’t want him to if the trajectory doesn’t change. This school won’t prepare him the same way it did for me.’’

BCLA is a non-exam school, which means students don’t need to take a test to gain admission as they do at Boston Latin School, for example. But Bilal Lafta, a senior at the school, said the programs it offers help them compete with other high schools in the city.

“We want to save all the BPS schools that are suffering,’’ he said. “But BCLA is a very special school to us. It’s unlike any other high school in the district. Out of all the BPS schools, it offers a lot of programs that concentrate on leadership, and those are going to be taken away.’’

In addition to losing the resources to have advanced placement courses within the school and some leadership programs, Wheaton-Calloway said they’ll also lose their theater teacher, as well as all electives. The school is already stretched thin. Right now, BCLA has no full-time gym teacher, and a substitute teacher fills in to teach the class.

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“To take all of that away is devastating to our school,’’ Wheaton-Calloway said. “What that really does to us as a school is make us bare bones. We’ll just have math, science, english, and history. When we strip a school of everything that makes it look attractive, we lose enrollment and then lose even more funding. It really couldn’t get any worse.’’

Update: A previous version of this story stated the school would receive $875,000 in budget cuts, the number cited by students in the video. Weir, the Boston schools spokesman, said the cuts from the city amount to $300,000, with a $650,000 budget shortfall. Weir said other cuts, like the arts and leadership program, are less drastic than initially reported.

 

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