Boston city councillors voted unanimously Wednesday to reject the proposed $2.97 billion city budget for next fiscal year, sending it back to the mayor’s office for revisions. Before they voted, many city councillors said they hoped to see more funding for Boston Public Schools in the updated version.
“I hope our body exhibits courageous leadership, that type of leadership that dries your mouth and makes your palms clammy because this this budget vastly underfunds the young people in the city of Boston to the tune of $31 to $38 million,” said Tito Jackson, chair of the education committee. “We can do better than that.”
The school district is projecting a more than $1 billion budget for next year. That number could increase after the school department finishes contract negotiations with the Boston Teachers Union. Jackson argued that the city, which has $115 million in new revenue this year, should devote more of its resources to the schools.
“I know many people have different feelings about students standing up but I know the students understand budgets better than we do because they understand the teachers being removed from their classrooms and the librarians being removed from their libraries,” he said.
Students, as well as parents and teachers, have been vocal about their budget concerns since a $50 million deficit was announced in January. Thousands of students participated in a walk out in March, and many have testified at hearings. Mayor Marty Walsh restored funding to high school budgets after the March walk out, but school budgets will still be affected by changes to the district’s weighted student funding formula, which allocates dollars to students rather than to programs.
“I’d like to continue the discussion and highlight where we’d like to see additional investment,” said councilor Ayanna Pressley. “I’m concerned about weighted student funding formula and the number of school nurses, specifically trauma-trained nurses. BPS also has work to do when it comes to transition of special education students. The school budget as I read it now is unacceptable.”
Just before she voted to reject the school appropriation, councilor Annissa Essaibi-George also expressed her belief that the city should do better.
“I want kids to face productive struggles in their education, not to wonder if the reading recovery specialist will be back next year,” she said.
The city council has until the last Wednesday in June to approve the revised budget submitted by the Mayor’s office.