Over the past two weeks the Boston Globe has printed two articles “High school student decline a strain for Boston” and “Room to spare in city schools – so make better use of it” decrying undersubscribed Boston Public High Schools and lack of available seats for elementary students. To be clear, the dropping enrollment is not the fault of Boston Public High Schools, the teen demographic, not only in Boston, but in Massachusetts has changed! It is NOT because parents are looking for a “longer day or the school-to-prison environments characteristic of state-authorized charter schools“ for their high school student! We have fewer teens to fill those seats because whoever was in charge of the demographic at BPS dropped the ball, again! New small BPS high schools, programs really, were opened or expanded as part of the “Acceleration Agenda” with disregard to the changing demographic!
There are a couple of “wrinkles” that were not mentioned in the articles or given the “breath” they deserved. The Boston School Committee caustically closed 12 schools 24 months ago! I find it interesting that this shortage of BPS elementary classrooms coincided with the $3.5M Gates Compact Grant which requires that the District lease or sell school building to charter school vendors! No mention that the state was award $130,000,000. in New Market Tax Credits (NMTC) that has investors trolling Boston for a 39% TAX CREDIT! I’m sure these NMTC investors were jumping for joy when the DOE stuck the BPS, the Number 1 urban school district in the Nation, with 1,500 charter seats! This NMTC money could uplift our urban areas if used for housing, community, jobs and business development, but charter schools are an easier investment vehicle to sell! Go ask Former Governor Bill Weld, now Boston lawyer and investment tax advisor.
Those 1,500 charter seats will take $22,840,500.+ out of BPS District budget! This figure does not include the transportation that BPS will pay CITYWIDE for charter students! Charter school transportation is “projected to increase” by $20.3 million! It does not include the “non-tuition” revenue that BPS will lose to charter schools. School Committee member and Codman Charter School Executive Director Meg Campbell is lobbying to move k-1 students into undersubscribed high school buildings. Just my opinion, but I find her suggestion a little self-serving since Ms. Campbell is in the market to open a k-8 charter school in Hyde Park.
I have a couple of more “realistic” suggestions to start “the conversation.“ The Margarita Muñiz Academy is located 2 blocks from The English High School, and will only have grades 9 and 10 this year. Muñiz Academy could easily move into the EHS Building and there is room in the building to expand the next two grades also. When completed the Muniz is only supposed to grow to 300 students, add the 610 from The English and problem solved! These two high schools already share resources and the principal of the Muñiz has a relationship with The English and would be a good fit for the Blueprint Schools Network that is assigned to The English (at a service fee cost of $800,000.+) this September. The Muñiz move would free up elementary space at the Agassiz/Mission Hill k-8 for the elementary students the building was designed for.
“Another Course To College” located in the Taft Middle School building in Brighton, could be moved and share space with the Burke High School. This would free up the Taft building that could be used for the large elementary population in the Allston/Brighton area. Or one of the local private colleges, universities, or cultural institutions could allocate space for the 220 students attending Another Course to College high school as part of their PILOT payment to the city for municipal services. If I were a high school student I certainly wouldn’t mind going to a school located in the ICA or the MFA!
The 359 students at Boston International High School could return home to the Hyde Park Educational Complex. Right now the HPEC building is undersubscribed with two pilot schools, BCLA (493 students) and New Mission (263 students) and could easily accommodate another school so students wouldn’t risk loosing their community. The District was trying to move Boston Latin Academy (BLA) to the HPEC and BLA had 1,645 students, so Boston International could be easily accommodated. In fact, if all else failed, BPS could move Another Course to College into HPEC too, and still have room for 310 students! This would free up space, promised to Families of Students with Disabilities for years, at the Henderson/Harbor School’s Inclusion Program located in the Cleveland/Harbor School building in Fields Corner!
Who came up this “3,000 surplus of empty high school seats,” list anyway? Was this math done by one of the “Broad residents” trained and placed in Boston Public Schools by the aggressively pro-charter Broad Foundation? This “data” makes no allowances for Special Education classes that have a reduced class size of between 8-12, or resource room students, ELL/SEI classes, and inclusion classes, all who have reduced class sizes. It does not account for the size of turnaround high schools whose enrollment has been capped by the Department of Education. For example, The English High School building is capped at 800 students, at one time The English building warehoused 1,400 hundred students! Is the Burke High School also capped because of turnaround status?
Also, this surplus list makes no allowances for those small high schools the BPS consolidated after Bill Gates took his money and ran. In the restructuring to small schools, many of the rooms in those schools had been chopped up into smaller offices to house the additional administrative and student support staff in each small school. Some one ought to tell Bill Gates that when you use something that doesn’t belong to you, and you break it, you have a moral obligation to at least return it to its original condition before you leave!
Finally, my partially “re-consolidated” BPS high school was assigned 2 more Students with Disabilities (SWD) classes this September and we were told to expect an influx of ELL/SEI students. That means we will have even more core subject teachers on carts, traveling from room to room, to teach classes of 31 students – in a space that is already tight! Is the District targeting my school for “turnaround” next? We’ll have to wait until September to see if these SWD classes and ELL/SEI students have moved from The English High School! I’ll keep you posted!