They banged drums and blew horns, but through the cacophony of noise the message was clear — don’t cut funding to Boston public schools. Inside, the school committee was working to approve Superintendent Carol Johnson’s proposed budget of $821.4 million for the 2011 fiscal year — a move that required making nearly $60 million in reductions.
They banged drums and blew horns, but through the cacophony of noise the message was clear — don’t cut funding to Boston public schools.
Police cordoned off a section of Court Street downtown Wednesday afternoon as hundreds of teachers, parents, students, community leaders and members of both the bus drivers and custodians unions gathered outside in front of the school committee building to protest school budget cuts.
Inside, the school committee was working to approve Superintendent Carol Johnson’s proposed budget of $821.4 million for the 2011 fiscal year — a move that required making nearly $60 million in reductions.
It also signals the third consecutive year of cuts.
“They say that say that many of our schools are underperforming, but they’re truly underfunded,” said Pat Mullane, a Madison High School teacher with 34 years of experience in the school system.
Greg Lake, a teacher at the Mario Umana Middle School in East Boston, said supplies are so limited that he has to go to OfficeMax and put up his own money to provide paper for his students — an expense he doesn’t get reimbursed for. He worries health insurance may one day end up on the chopping block.
“They’re making a lot of cuts in the BPS and it’s just not right,” Lake said. “When you cut staff, you cut kids.”
Lake joined in with many who gathered in thunderous chants of “Support our kids” and “No more cuts!”
Others at the rally, armed with noisemakers and signs that read “Underfunding equals underperforming,” and “Budget cuts hurt kids,” paraded around the building. Some taped signs to the windows facing into the school committee chamber until the police dispersed them.
Though there were no arrests, there was a minor scuffle at the front door between members of the bus drivers union and the police, who were only allowing a select few into the school committee meeting.
Sarah Stutman, a junior at Boston Latin School and West Roxbury resident, came down to support her parents, Nancy Stutman, a speech therapist at the Timilty Middle School, and Richard Stutman, president of the Boston Teachers Union.
Sarah Stutman said she hopes the mayor sees how students benefit from teachers.
“Everyone is getting affected by the budget cuts,” she said.
Her mother, Nancy Stutman, said city officials have to look at other ways to fund and support the school system instead of making more cuts in services. One suggestion she had is possibly increasing the property taxes non-profits such as hospitals, foundations, and universities like Harvard and Northeastern pay.
“Northeastern University only pays $30,000 every year in property tax,” she said.
That’s a fact that troubles her husband, Richard Stutman, who said Northeastern has real estate properties totaling $1.3 billion, and they should pay their “fair share by the city’s estimate” — $30 million.
“It’s not acceptable to look the other way,” he said. “It’s also not acceptable to blame schools from underperformance when in fact they are underfunded — for years.”
He went on to say it’s “unacceptable to cut a school budget by $57 million” and a unanimous vote by the school committee sends the message they “don’t care what goes into the budget.”
“I wish they would they would take an actual look at the programs they were cutting,” he said, referring to the more than 80 custodial positions that will be eliminated.
City Councilor At-Large Felix Arroyo was on hand to lend his support to those speaking out against the cuts. He said the city is at a “tipping point.”
“The workers who have the most impact with our young people are saying, ‘You can’t keep cutting us. We can’t affect those on the front lines with our students,” he said, adding there needs to be a more exhausted process to find the money, and the issue lies primarily with major reductions in state funding.
Sandra McIntosh, English High School’s parent coordinator, has one question for city and school officials: “How do you become a world-class school system if you have to take these cuts every year?”
She wants city officials to look at the “formula for how they fund schools.”
“The money is there. If someone said, ‘Let’s build a new Fenway Park, it would be built,” McIntosh said. “We’re talking about our children here. They can’t vote, so we have to stand up for them.”
Wicked Local West Roxbury/Roslindale