Boston student walkout about cuts — and more

For the second time this year, Boston Public Schools students walked out of classes to protest budget cuts they say imperil their ability to get a quality education.

Tuesday’s walkout was much smaller than a demonstration in March, when several thousand students arrived in front of the State House and then marched to City Hall. Several hundred students gathered on City Hall Plaza yesterday afternoon before some of them went inside and testified at a City Council hearing.

On its face, the issue appears to be funding for Boston Public Schools, but other agendas may also be at play.

The March walkout prompted Mayor Marty Walsh to reverse planned cuts at Boston high schools. The proposed school budget for next year — more than $1 billion — is an increase of $13.5 million but may nonetheless result in cuts in some areas because the increase is not enough to keep pace with rising personnel costs. City Councilor Tito Jackson, who has been leading the charge against the cuts, tells the Globe the city has the money to provide more funding and he wants the Walsh administration to increase the school budget by $30 million.

Today’s Herald fans the flames — which are really no more than faint embers at this point — of a possible Jackson run for mayor next year against Walsh. The Herald quotes Joe Slavet, one-time head of the Boston Municipal Research Bureau, who said that Jackson, with his support for the student walkout, is “launching his campaign for mayor.”

Jackson waves off such talk, saying his focus is the schools. But he doesn’t seem to mind the attention and the media would desperately love a mayoral challenge, so look for the speculation to continue.

Another agenda at play in the protests is opposition to charter schools. Today’s Globe quotes Sean Hargrove, a student at City on a Hill Charter Public School, who said he came to City Hall to support the protest, even though its focus was on Boston’s district schools.

“I came because I have friends, and my little sisters, who in the future will be going to Boston Public Schools,” he tells the paper. “I feel like this is a teachable moment, because this is a time when teenagers came together and stood up.”

Hargrove’s one-for-all attitude is touching. But it doesn’t seem like the protest organizers share the view that Boston students should come together to support all forms of public schools in the city. A press advisory on the walkout said students would be protesting budget cuts to the Boston Public Schools — and also calling on Walsh to “change his stance on lifting the charter cap and to instead focus on ensuring a world-class public education for all Boston students.”

Walsh does not support a looming ballot question that would allow up to 12 new charter schools a year beyond the current state cap, but he has long voiced support for charter schools and says he favors a gradual increase in the cap, accompanied by changes to the system for reimbursing district schools when students to go charters.

The Globe reported that the March walkout was promoted by two groups with extensive ties to unions, including to teachers unions that oppose charter school growth. The press advisory on yesterday’s student walkout came from a Washington, DC, public relations firm that said it was working for the Boston Education Justice Alliance, which the Boston Teachers Union is a member of.




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