Schools

After scathing DESE report, Boston schools ‘need a plan,’ Gov. Baker says

"It's not enough for people to say, 'We don't want receivership.'"

Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff
Governor Charlie Baker. Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff
Boston Public Schools

Gov. Charlie Baker on Thursday said if city officials are opposed to state receivership of Boston Public Schools, then the district needs a thorough plan to address a host of outstanding, decades-long problems outlined in a scathing state report released this week.

“It’s not enough for people to say, ‘We don’t want receivership,” Baker said during an appearance on GBH’s “Boston Public Radio.” “People actually have to say what they will do to deal with the very real and indisputable conclusions that were drawn.”

The report, compiled by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and published on Monday, found Boston schools are incapable of managing some of a school system’s most basic functions, such as student safety and reliable transportation.

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Furthermore, BPS currently lacks adequate services for students with disabilities and English language learners, and entrenched systems within the district have “contributed to a pattern of inequitable access to quality education,” the report found.

City officials, education advocates, and teachers, however, fear the review could lead to a state takeover of Boston schools — an option available to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education — which they strongly oppose.

Critics of the mechanism say the state’s lackluster record of improvement in school systems under receivership, such as Lawrence and Holyoke, is all the more reason to let Boston have local control over its schools.

DESE Commissioner Jeffrey Riley on Tuesday did not make any recommendation to the board on state receivership. But he is in talks with Mayor Michelle Wu over what assurances the district can give to the state for fixing the problems, he said.

On Thursday, Baker said with the local opposition to receivership, Boston leaders need to put what the district plans “to do — in real terms — to deal with the issues raised in that report.”

Baker also objected to the criticism of receivership’s effectiveness, at least in Lawrence schools.

“Anybody who wants to say that Lawrence didn’t get better under (Riley’s) leadership is kidding themselves,” he said. “They got a lot better.”

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When a co-host remarked that Baker sounded in support of receivership, the governor demurred.

“It sounds like they need a plan … So far, the message from most of the legislators, city councilors, school committee members, everybody has been ‘Don’t put us in receivership,'” Baker said. “OK. What then?”

On Tuesday, Riley blamed many of the problems facing BPS on what he called “a bloated central office that is often incapable of the most basic functions.”

“The result is that students, especially our most vulnerable students are being denied the quality education that they deserve,” Riley said.

Wu, speaking before DESE officials, signaled the city is interested in seeking a partnership with the state department that does not include an outright takeover of BPS.

This week, Boston will submit a proposal to DESE “that establishes key areas for improvement with clear opportunities for support and technical assistance from the state,” Wu said.

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