Hub students protest budget gap as Walsh testifies on charters

Printed from:

BOSTON – Hundreds of Boston Public Schools students climbed Beacon Hill Monday to protest proposed state education budget cuts as the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Education began a marathon public hearing inside the State House, drawing heated testimony from supporters and opponents of charter schools and Common Core education standards.

The timing of the student rally didn’t appear directly linked to the hearing, in which Boston Mayor Marty Walsh voiced opposition to raising the limit on charter school authorizations. Immediately after he left the hearing room, a host of reporters surrounded the mayor to ask for comments on the rally outside and the city’s school budget gap.

Walsh said he was disappointed by what he described as “misinformation” and criticized reports that the deficit had ballooned to $50 million.

“The students are protesting about it, again I think it’s a good thing, but they can certainly come to the State House and protest after school for additional funding,” he added.

Walsh added that rumors of predetermined “major cuts” are false.

“‘Major cuts’ hasn’t come out of my mouth,” Walsh said. “It’s still too early. We’re still in the middle of the process.”

“You guys have followed this, when a budget comes out, it’s ‘the sky is falling,’” he said.

Initially, Walsh said, the deficit “was around $30 million,” adding it is “a lot smaller than that today.”

Walsh also pointed out that Boston has “received less and less state money during the last decade” but added that the “city has some housekeeping to do as well.”

Between 2008 and projections for fiscal 2017, state education aid to Boston has fallen about $2 million, according to estimates from the mayor’s office.

Outside the State House, students donned stickers reading,“Million$ for GE, budget cuts for schools,” a  jab aimed at the tax breaks that helped lure corporate behemoth General Electric into leaving suburban Connecticut and moving its corporate headquarters to Boston’s Seaport district.

  Walsh also talked about the effect that increasing the number of charter schools would have on future budgets. The privately run institutions are funded with taxpayer dollars. “We’re having a walk-out in Boston Public Schools today because of a shortfall, and you’re going to give us more charter schools without giving us the resources to pay for it?” Walsh said. “Imagine what the budget problems will be in the next six or seven years; they’ll be daunting.”

The city plans to spend $1.27 billion on schools in fiscal 2017, a $13.5 million increase from the current year, according to information from the mayor’s office. Baker in his $39.55 billion budget proposal allocated nearly $214 million to Boston from Chapter 70 education funding, an increase of about $1.3 million over the current year.

Following his comments to the media, Walsh left the State House for Faneuil Hall, where he and Baker attended another press conference to promote a special Under 30 Summit planned for October and targeted at the city’s young people. Students wound up marching to Faneuil Hall but Walsh left the area immediately after his press conference.