On schools, Boston’s new mayor must meet the moment

A 100-day plan for the Wu administration to start urgent work on education

BOSTON IS AT an historic moment of opportunity. We just elected Michelle Wu as the city’s first female mayor, first mayor of color, and first active Boston Public School parent in recent history. Voters are calling for bold change, and pre-election polls showed education was the most pressing issue on voters’ minds. Without question, education should be the most urgent priority for the Wu administration.

If this new administration is truly committed to transformative change, there is no question that they must lead the city’s public school system in a dramatic new direction. Boston’s school children and their families deserve specific plans and real action. Boston Public Schools, which were facing considerable challenges even before the pandemic hit, continue to fail our most vulnerable students after an unprecedented disruption in learning. It’s vital to understand how our new mayor will meet this moment.

All Children Thrive (ACT Boston) is a collaborative of nonprofits that interacts with tens of thousands of children and families, and thousands of educators, school leaders, and school partners. Our vision is simple: for Boston to become a city where all children thrive.

Boston, rich in resources, has incredible potential to ensure that all students are given a world-class education. But, we have fallen far short of our potential. Our current education system, like so many other systems in the city, creates winners and losers. Far too many students and families – disproportionately students and families of color – bear the burden of a broken system year after year.

However, transformation is possible. Mayor-elect Wu will be the most important player in improving this system for children and families. She will have the power to change course immediately through her actions, to move away from stagnation and toward progress that will be visible within her tenure. She will have the opportunity to re-prioritize education to truly serve the students and families in our city, establishing her legacy of bold action and courage.

The First 100 Days

The first 100 days of a new administration are critical. During this time, a new mayor has the opportunity to set course for months and years to come. We urge the new mayor to make education and child well-being a priority in her first 100 days, in line with the priority voters put on education leading up to the election. Specifically, we call on Mayor-elect Wu to:

  • Publicly publish the Mayor’s pre K-12 education vision, aligned objectives, and outcomes. Making decisions in the face of conflicting requests and priorities is challenging, especially in the field of education. As the city’s leader, the mayor must set a public, comprehensive vision for the welfare of the children in Boston,  recommitting the system to provide high-quality instruction and learning opportunities for every child. That vision should include a clear set of objectives, identifying key indicators, and who will be tracking them, as well as timelines of expected checks on progress for Boston Public Schools.
  • Appoint a cabinet-level education lead in City Hall. Empower this leader to oversee implementation of the mayor’s education vision – inside and outside Boston Public Schools – and drive to the outcomes our students, families, and educators deserve.
  • Clearly define roles & responsibilities for key education appointees. This will include the Boston School Committee, superintendent, City Hall education staff, and City Council, and should be visible alongside the Mayor’s education vision and aligned objectives.
  • Align the BPS budget. Ensure that the Boston Public Schools’ budget – including remaining pandemic relief funds – is aligned with the outcomes required to realize the mayor’s education vision.
  • Ensure a strong and diverse representative School Committee. All appointments to the Boston School Committee, including the four positions that will be up for appointment by the end of the year, should be reflective of the community, highly-qualified with technical and/or lived experience in public education, and  committed to building a system of high-quality, equitable, and accountable schools.

Looking beyond the first 100 days, ACT Boston has also put forward a series of policy priorities that we believe will help our new mayor be a truly transformational leader that could both shape our K-12 public education system for decades to come.

As representatives of education and advocacy organizations committed to improving and shaping Boston’s education for all, we stand ready to roll up our sleeves to help the new mayor on her first day in office. We will also be watching and advocating for a strong education agenda as we cannot afford another year of the status quo, and need real, systematic change that will benefit all of Boston’s children to build a more prosperous and equitable next generation for Boston.

Meet the Author
All Children Thrive (ACT Boston) is a non-partisan collaborative of non-profit and community-based organizations raising awareness of educational inequities in Boston and holding city leadership accountable for equitable opportunities and outcomes for all of Boston’s children. ACT Boston member organizations that are signatories to this commentary piece:  Boston Opportunity Agenda, Boston Plan for Excellence, Boston Schools Fund, East Boston Social Centers, Educators for Excellence – Boston, The Education Trust, EdVestors, Generation Citizen, Latinos for Education, OneGoal, Propel America, SchoolFacts Boston, Steppingstone Foundation, The Teachers’ Lounge, Union Capital Boston, United Way of of Massachusetts Bay & Merrimack Valley and West End House. Learn more at actboston.org.