Netta Brownell believed that if she dedicated herself to advocating for better funding for Boston Public Schools, she could make a difference. She signed up to represent her son’s school as a member of the Citywide Parent Council, and went to more school committee meetings than she can remember.
But after the City Council approved the fiscal year budget for 2017 last week, which gave Boston Public Schools a budget allocation of $1.032 billion, Brown felt defeated. Her son’s school, the Curtis Guild Elementary in East Boston, will work with $290,000 less than what was budgeted last year.
“With this vote, [officials] are showing they don’t even care what we have to say,” she said. “All we’ve heard is that they don’t have the funds, and that’s not an acceptable answer. The only reason I haven’t left Boston is because I’m a teacher here.”
The Guild isn’t the only school affected. There is still a proposed shortfall of at least $22 million affecting schools in the district due to increased expenses and fixed costs, such as teacher salaries, as well as decreased enrollment and a decline in state aid. Using data and figures provided by the School Department, Boston.com looked at some of the schools most affected by the shortfall to see how the budget gap will affect students at the classroom level:
Boston Public Schools calculates its annual budget based on a “Weighted Student Funding’’ model, which allocates dollars to students rather than to programs, buildings, or schools. Each student’s allocation varies based on his or her grade level, educational needs, and learning challenges. The School Department is allocating less money for students with autism or emotional impairments due to budget constraints.
Because of these changes, the district created a $300,000 reserve fund that Superintendent Tommy Chang will disperse to affected schools in the fall. The fund is meant to help provide additional support to remaining staff members at schools that have experienced cuts due to the weighted student funding formula, according to the School Department.
Curtis Guild Elementary
The East Boston school’s reduction totals $294,979. Brownell said the principal of the school, Karen McCarthy, has done an incredible job at making the school academically rigorous for the students who attend, but she worries about future opportunities with a decreased budget.
Reductions to the school include:
- Losing six paraprofessionals due to additional hiring of teachers for Sheltered English Immersion classes. Because of the hiring of additional teachers, class sizes are anticipated to be smaller and there is less of a need for paraprofessionals, according to the School Department.
- Bilingual teacher position transferred from the school to the Umana Academy, which is a different Boston public school.
- Elimination of a part-time specialist position.
Boston Community Leadership Academy
Last year, 22 percent of Boston Community Leadership Academy students had disabilities, which meant it would be highly affected by changes to the weighted student funding formula. Due to additional changes in enrollment, the reduction in the high school’s budget totals $195,442.
The biggest change is the loss of the school’s leadership program. Rishka Pizarro Reid, a soon-to-be-junior, said this particular cut made her feel like the school was losing its core purpose.
“Right now it feels like all the advocacy work we did was wasted,” she said. “Now we have no leadership team, so I’m thinking of taking it on myself and doing leadership outings as a volunteer efforts with the younger kids.”
Here are some other ways the school is affected:
- Losing one librarian, one math teacher, one history teacher, one theater teacher, and one leadership coordinator.
- Losing gym classes, though the School Department said the school will meet the state mandates for physical education and wellness with a half-time physical education teacher.
- Losing a ninth grade “Strategies for Success” class, designed to help students develop skills to be successful in high school (i.e. keeping an agenda and reading for deeper meaning).
- Losing a 10th grade numeracy class, which works on math problem solving and MCAS skills.
- Losing a 10th grade writers workshop, which works on writing and MCAS skills.
- Losing an 11th grade SAT prep class.
- Losing AP biology and AP world history courses, though students can enroll in these courses at New Mission High School, which is in the same building as BCLA.
- The daily schedule will change from a six-period day to a five-period day, with longer classes and less collaborative planning time for teachers.
West Zone Early Learning Center
The West Zone’s budget reduction totals $316,131. Here are some ways the school, which has students in pre-K through first grade, will be affected:
- Losing a Reading Recovery Coach for first graders.
- Losing four part-time bus attendants to go on buses with 3 and 4 year olds.
- Losing three paraprofessionals, who work to support full-time teachers in the classroom.
- The School Department could not confirm whether “special” classes like music, drumming, choir, swimming, and tennis will be cut, though many parents involved in the school site council, which helps set the budget, have said this is the case.
Madison Park Technical Vocational High
The school’s allocation is not final, as Madison Park is still in the hiring process. But, as of the latest figures provided by the School Department, the school’s total allocation is down $777,869.
This is how that breaks down:
- The school is projected to enroll 874 students next year, down from the 922 projected for this past year. Even though 922 were projected, there were only 824 students at the school as of May 10. The decreased enrollment means the school has less money in its budget.
- Despite the cuts, the school reserved $980,253 to cover the cost of extended learning time for students, additional planning and professional development for staff at the school, as well as additional turnaround strategies.
- A $451,000 culinary arts grant the school received from the state prevented deeper cuts.
Channing Elementary School
The School Department said the budget will be reduced $515,684, which is largely due to a program for students with autism being moved to different school sites. The school will also deal with the following reductions:
- Losing a music teacher due to the loss of grant funding for an arts position at the school.
- A full-time nurse will now work part-time.
- The Channing’s program for students with emotional impairments was moved to multiple different school sites, according to the district, which meant the counselor who supported the program would no longer be paid as part of the school’s budget.
- The Channing will cut one community field coordinator, who helped to develop positive relationships with students and families. Some of those funds were used to create a security assistant.
- The school received $411,995 from their School Redesign Grant, which is used to extend the school day and provide support for teacher leadership development, as well as stipends for a before-school tutoring program.