Who is Worse at Math? BPS or the BTU?

If you’re a reader of this blog, you know I have long contended that the problem with the Boston Public Schools is not a FUNDING problem, but in fact, an ADMINISTRATIVE problem.

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Now, if you listen to the tale that Boston Teachers Union President Jessica Tang spins, you’d think people were literally walking out of the Bolling Building with sacks full of money while laughing about how the local school librarians was unceremoniously ridden out on a rail and our children are attending schools without rugs.

The fact of the matter is, it’s just not the case. And what I don’t understand is how education reporters are allowing this narrative to persist over and over and OVER again without actually checking the facts.

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(Similar to the facts that I had to point out this week in my Letter to the Editor published in the Boston Globe. Can you imagine writing a piece about schools considered to be “good” in the BPS system without actually checking the numbers to see if the school was even worth a damn? Jeez.)

So let’s once again return to the facts, shall we?

At nearly every opportunity, President Tang loves to crack a microphone in front of the crowd to bemoan the dire financial situation facing the Boston Public Schools. After looking at the actual numbers, I’m not sure if she is intentionally lying or just fundamentally does not understand the state of the district’s finances.

Two years ago during a debate regarding the ballot question to raise the cap on charter schools — Tang said, When we have less and less funding at Boston Public Schools every year that lead to more and more cuts of art teachers, librarians. We don’t even have a nurse in every school.”

(Edward Kennedy Institute Debate – comments begin at 19 minutes)

And of course, repeat on and on and on, over and over again in the media — including just last week:

“When you are in a school that has been systematically under resourced and underinvested in and we had opportunities to the state legislature for example in this last session — had a chance to change the funding formula, it hasn’t been changed in the past 25 years. And havent for example increased the revenues in our schools that don’t have a full-time nurse, don’t have a social worker, guidance counselors, and staffing that we know students need and you start to wonder well who does care?”

The problem being — it’s literally not true. (Including the idea that the Senate bill proposed this year would have brought any money into BPS.) Here are the ACTUAL facts:

Boston per pupil funding increased by almost 40% in the past 8 years. (As context, inflation has only grown at the rate of 18% since January 2011.)

Source: http://www.doe.mass.edu/charter/finance/tuition/q4-histsum.xlsx, http://www.doe.mass.edu/finance/chapter70/profile.xlsx

In fact, Boston has the second largest per pupil spending among large urban districts in the US

Source: https://www.census.gov/library/visualizations/2018/comm/school-finances.html.html

Now, maybe Jessica is right that schools aren’t getting the staff that students need — but it’s not because of a lack of funding. It’s about how we are using the ENORMOUS FUNDING we actually have in the city of Boston. Here’s a hint. We’re doing it WRONG.

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I mean seriously people: BPS has a $1.2 billion budget!!!

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I dunno, maybe if we stop allowing the BTU to tell us that we have to keep broken-down, half-empty, underperforming schools open because we have to continue trying to pretend we have a system that needs to meet the needs of 90k kids instead of 54k kids so that adults can maintain their job security — we could actually reallocate that money into things that could directly impact kids?

Like … updating and repairing facilities? More seats in high performing schools? Wrap around services that help children and families? Reallocating resources to trauma impacted schools?

And I don’t know — maybe cutting the serious fat in the Bolling Building? There’s so many people clogging the arteries of that place the damn thing could drop dead of a heart attack at any minute. Talk about needing an emergency bypass. (I might be starting to write like an 8th grader here and be confusing my analogies — but I think you get the point.)

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And education beat folks? Come on. Can we start thinking a little more critically here? This is going to be a big year for Boston Public Schools.

  • Transportation is going to be an expensive, hot mess. Again.
  • We have interim superintendent — and Mayor Walsh says he’s in no rush to find a permanent leader for the system. (I mean, it’s just the future of our children and economic development in the city — seriously, Marty? And considering our real problem in the Boston Public Schools is a lack of vision and strong administration as established above … you’d think this would be a priority?)
  • Word on the street is that parents aren’t even sure when the damn first day of school actually IS for kindergarteners.
  • What the hell ever happened to the now 5-year-old BuildBPS program that has literally failed to build even ONE SCHOOL in the city of Boston?
  • And is anyone asking questions about where we are with contract negotiations with the BTU at this point? (Before we know it, teachers with an average salary of over $100k will be hosting informational pickets about how tough they have it in front of their underperforming schools.)

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We need you on your game here. Step up.

What do you think?

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