Paving the way to gut public schools

Parent Imperfect explains why he doesn't think much of the "third way" proposal by state Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz and state Rep. Russell Holmes to lift the cap on charter schools.

If charter schools are a safety valve, then they make for an expensive and leaky valve at a time when urban districts like the BPS are under tremendous budget pressure. Rather than divert resources to a separate system of schools with precious little accountability, let’s focus our efforts on changing the way business is done at Court Street and on continuing to improve Boston’s schools, one at a time. I just don’t see an alternative if we want to offer Boston’s students great educations choices. Step one along this path will be the selection of a new Boston School Superintendent who understands the problems faced by the BPS, and possesses a vision that can mobilize all stakeholders to tackle those problems.

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Boston Public Schools had

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Boston Public Schools had their chance and failed several decades worth of children. Time to let rotten system die and start over with something new charter system which seems to be working more often than not.

This 'save our public schools!' is more about protecting the jobs of legions of administrators and tenured teachers (that have failed "the children") than it is "the children".

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Defunding public schools

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I have been talking to parents from The Philbrick Elementary, a Boston Public School, a tier 1 school (read, best) who have had to cut their supply budget to zero. That's pencils and paper, copier ink, etc. The parents are going to try and pay for these supplies. It's a really sad story, but that's what's happening to some exceptionally good public schools, due to things like this.

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B2MuR3TGW3tYRjh0YUpEeU1NanpPZDItSUhORkJh...

That's 13.3% (charter schools) getting 42% of the states chapter 70 state aid.

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BPS/Charter debat

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I think we all want the best for our kids- BPS or charter. We want a great public education system with both options available and viable. I see a lot of math thrown around and both sides are fighting over the size of the pie slice. Let's not get distracted by who is better and deserves more- the bottom line should be investing in our kids should be a top priority for the state.
I am a mom of a BPS kid and can very forcefully declare that the school IS NOT failing my kid. We can opt for private and thought about it, even applied- but declined after seeing our daughter thrive in her boston public school.
Right now her school has a budget shortfall for next year- and many of her friends' schools face the same- these schools are working for our kids. With more cuts, the foundation the schools are working hard to build will begin to crumble.
Let's please not squabble over the size of pie on our plate but rather push legislatures for a long term commitment to charters AND public schools. I also ask people to not claim BPS is failing as that casts a wide net of inaccuracy. I don't doubt people have experiences that reflect this- but there are many of us parents who do not and to say BPS is failing our kids insults the hard work I see teachers, principles and staff put into success every day.
Alex

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It's not that simple

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You make a simple argument that sounds good, but it lacks facts and evidence. I'm not necessarily against raising the cap, but I'm glad Chang-Diaz is listening to voters and trying to get this right. According to MCAS scores, which actually tell us very little about school quality, the students that most Charters serve well are the same students that most public schools also serve well. You can get all the information on the DESE site.

And if you use public monies

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to establish and run charter schools which drain funds from public schools, you set up an inequitable two-tiered system that sets the stage for corporations to take over the education of our children and remove education from public control.

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Charters are public schools

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At least in Mass. Fully accountable to the people and parents. This is a strawman that the unions throw out there to divert attention from the success of the charter models.

Charters are public
They operate at a lower cost than the publics
And the publics actually make a "profit" every time a student leaves in incremental state money for "transition"

BPS budget has NEVER been cut in at least the past 15 years - despite declining enrollment - in fact I think it has always grown at the rate of inflation or greater save perhaps for the year after the financial crisis when it was flat.

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Where are you getting your

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Where are you getting your data? BPS has had it's budget cut again and again in the past number of years by both the state and federal government. Charter reimbursements have not been fully paid in a number of years.

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City budget here

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Please tell me where they are cutting the school budget (or ever have). I think there is now 11 years of history online - including 2004 and 2005 actuals in the 2006 budget.

http://www.cityofboston.gov/budget/

The city - as usual, is throwing up a smokescreen creating a crisis to cover for the fact that despite steady budget increases, raises, pensions and benefits are eating up all incremental revenue faster than we can throw it at city workers.

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That is also true

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But it's not because we are "defunding" the schools or cutting budgets. These are staff cuts - not budget cuts. Hard to tell where the increases and decreases are - but it appears that costs are going up even faster than very generous funding increases - and it doesn't look like it's due to plans for more students either - on the contrary - looks like perhaps fewer students next year

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This is not a Mass charter

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That was in CA, IL etc.

Use local examples. Much of what is going on nationally doesn't apply to Mass. Our charter laws are generally stricter and better than many other states.

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Who is doing what they always

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Who is doing what they always did? Neither BPS or charters are doing what they always did.

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BPS Challenges

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Hello,aging cynic-

I appreciate the frustration that I pick up in your comment, but could you explain a little more about your concerns? It seems that you're a Charter supporter,but could you explain a little more? Do you think that all schools in the BPS are over-funded? Inefficient? Some? Most? It's much more helpful to be specific about problems and solutions. Can you help us out? I strongly support charter schools, generally, but am wary of some.

Thanks, and I really do appreciate any thought/effort/time you're able to put into it

Peter

It seems funny to me that

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It seems funny to me that Parent Imperfect claims that there is no accountability at charter schools. At least in charters, students/parents can decide to stay or go. That seems pretty accountable to me. On the other hand there has been zero accountability in the public school system. How many years have parents been trying to fix BPS?

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except they dump "problem students" back on regular schools

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yes - some parents can choose to remove their kids - but charters can and will kick students out - regular schools do not have this freedom.

also charters can't seem to retain experienced teachers (turn-over rates are around 50% for teaching staff PER YEAR, and very few people stay on once they reach the age when they're planning on starting a family - if you had a company where 50% of people left or were fired every year you'd really wonder just what the hell is wrong with that place). Yes, there are some good things about charters (they provide freedom for people just starting out in their careers to test ideas - and some experimentation in pedagogy and curricula), but it's not a good system if you want to actually encourage people to make a career out of teaching, and not so great for kids who are stuck in regular schools because with too many charters they'll all slowly become dumping grounds for the hardest to educate students. There is definitely a limit to the number of charters within the system.

the big issue that everyone seems to be neglecting is that there are too many students in the system who are highly disruptive, but haven't done anything extreme enough to be placed in a special program that can meet their needs. However they make learning difficult for their peers because they still take up too much of the teacher's time. You give schools the same flexibility to "pass off" these students as charters have, then you will see huge improvements in student performance at that school.

From what I understand, there are some changes this year to the hiring process that might finally start weeding out the ineffective teachers from the system. It still doesn't fix the other problem of "tough to teach" kids, but at least this is progress.

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Except for when they don't

The Brooke in Roslindale has a very long wait list and very, very low student turnover. They aren't actually kicking disrupting kids out - they are working with them to keep those kids from disrupting the rest of the class. It's pretty much the opposite of BPS where the rest of the class sits around waiting to go to lunch or recess while the disruptive kids are handled. The only filtering that happens, which is a big thing no doubt, is that all the families at the school care about their kids education enough to apply in the first place.

If a teacher is effective, I don't care if they are at a school for 5 years or 20 years. There are tons of lifelong, crappy teachers in the BPS - is that better? My kid had a terrible, long time kindergarten teacher - she was strict and mean, but hey at least she'd been doing it for years, right?

Limited charter schools are fine and not to blame for the current financial problems with BPS. The cap is needed but let's not fool ourselves into thinking the BPS can actually accommodate all the school ages kids out there anyways. The city needs families to opt out of the system while still paying taxes for the public schools. I suspect the West Roxbury tax base for example puts in a lot more money into the system than it pulls out for BPS budget. If the BPS had to educate all the parochial kids, the budget would be an actual disaster.

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I was thinking the same thing.

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Yes--high turnover is a worry but not as big a problem, IMO, as a system that provides virtually NO way to get rid of bad teachers or to reward good ones. It's all about seniority and getting rid of even an egregiously bad teacher requires such insane levels of hoop-jumping that it almost never seems to happen.

As for "disruptive kids"...it's a trickier problem. My kid and I were just talking about this issue this weekend--the countless kids she knew over the years who were angry, sad, violent, exhausted...she gave many teachers a lot of credit for doing what they could with kids who "had trouble at home" but it sometimes seemed like digging a canal with a teaspoon.

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Coupla Stats

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1) Heard on WBZ a couple weeks ago that there were 2200 open slots available in the upcoming lottery for charters. There were 13,000 (!!!!) applications - that's about a quarter of the entire student population wanted out and you have to figure half are already either satisfied with or resigned to their current circumstances.

2) Excluding Cambridge, Boston has the highest per capita budget of almost any district in the state - especially for larger districts. As one of the wealthiest and most generous states when it comes to schools, there are probably no more than a few dozen or at most a few hundred districts in the entire country that have the funding that BPS has.

3) BPS revenue has been growing at almost twice the rate of inflation for over a decade. Maybe Chapter 70 is getting cut/diverted or whatever, but there has been no shortage of money going to BPS. Compounding this, BPS is shrinking - I think down below 55,000 students this school year. Making matters even worse, the little growth they've had has come from pre-K and kindergarten - which are significantly cheaper to fund than other grade levels. Despite a 20% decrease in students, there have been minimal or no cuts to staff, pensions and benefits. If the current trend is allowed to continue, BPS will have no students, but a staff of 7000 making $200k per year in today's dollars.

Two things - all I hear from the pro-BPS crowd is we need more.

a) what are you going to do with "more" and speaking of accountability - what happens if you don't deliver? Forget charters, - where is the accountability of BPS?
b) don't just come to us and say you need more. If you need more, that means we have to give someone else less - where do we cut (and don't say charters because even if they do "divert" money from BPS - which isn't true per the stats above - the spending per capita is markedly cheaper at charters than at BPS - and they are apparently generally delivering which is why 6 kids want out for every one that can get out.

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Judging applicant numbers is misleading...

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I think it is irresponsible to judge the charter cap on applicant numbers. There are some really great charter schools available. There are some really great BPS schools available. When applying for the BPS lottery, we had no idea what school we would be assigned to. Parents increase their odds of getting a seat at desirable schools by entering the BPS lottery as well as the charters. We got into Brooke and turned it down because we were happy with our BPS placement. However, I would have chose Brooke over some BPS schools in our zone. The large number of applicants only means parents are trying to increase their lottery odds at a good placement, so using the applicant number to assume a lift on the charter cap is ridiculous.

My son is doing well in his BPS K2 placement. We got our top choice after not getting a sought-after K1 seat. We have the option to pull him and move him to the district where I work, which is a highly ranked school district in a town we cannot afford to live in (which also offers some but not as much diversity). Instead we are choosing to stay and be a part of the community we love wholly, so that he goes to school with some of his neighbors. I hope the city will not cut our school budget and instead choose to invest in our children and in the families who want to be a part of this great city. I think until we are not facing budget cuts, it is irresponsible to increase the charter cap and pull additional funding from the main school district. If we were to focus on the main school district and improve more BPS schools as has been done in recent years, I bet there would be less charter school applicants and more parents like me denying their charter seat. I do not want charters to disappear, but until we increase them I think more data is necessary to determine the student body they are educating (less of the high need special education students) and the reimbursement rates need to be
examined.

Can anyone speak to a story I heard referenced about tax shelter/tax benefit for companies investing in charters? I would like to know more about this but cannot find the information.

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The city is playing you for a fool

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Your comment

I hope the city will not cut our school budget and instead choose to invest in our children and in the families who want to be a part of this great city. I think until we are not facing budget cuts, it is irresponsible to increase the charter cap and pull additional funding from the main school district.

How many times and in how many ways do I have to repeat this - it's a figment of the city's and now your imagination.

In fact - just the opposite is happening.

From 2004-2015 (initial proposal) the city's operating school budget went from $651 million to $986 million - for a student population that has shrunk by about 8%.

That's a 51% INCREASE in the budget - and per capita closer to 70% while inflation has run 25%.

Instead of wasting your time blaming charter schools for what ails boston's schools, you should be storming the doors with pitchforks and torches asking them where the hell all that money is going - because apparently it's not going to your child's education based on what I read out here.

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Some more data

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From 2004-2015, the state's required net school spending for Boston has increased from $566,106,894 to $838,455,249 (initial proposal). That's a 48% increase - not too far off from the 51% increase you cite. Over that span, the state's required local contribution to Boston's school budget has risen from $365,608,528 to 627,463,814, a 71% increase. Apparently the state thinks education is getting more expensive, too, and is requiring that the city kick in more of it than ever. Again, I'm not saying there isn't waste here, I just want to add some context.

Here's a handy chart:
IMAGE(http://i.imgur.com/Tu8W8rb.png)

The purple striped bars are the state's foundation budget for Boston - the minimum amount that the state thinks we could get by with. The black dashed line is the minimum that we're required to budget for schools, the sum of our state aid and the amount the state requires that we spend. The actual budget is marked with blue diamonds. The red bars show the amount of state aid we get. Note how the first three are rising at roughly the same rate, while the red bars leveled off around 2001 or 2002.

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Entirely irrelevant

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Couple things

First - this is how they figure out the school budget (because it doesn't exist in a vacuum). Take the total city revenues - multiply by .35 (+- about 1%) and that's how much they get. That's been the case for the last 20 years or so, even though the schools are much smaller than they used to be which is why per capita spending is skyrocketing. If you deviate from that on the upside - you have to cut somewhere else - where?

Second - I'm not positive about this - but the way the state figures out that black line I think has nothing to do with "this is what you should spend", and a lot more to do with "this is how rich your town is" - however they measure that. The steep curve is because our revenues as a city have been skyrocketing - not because the cost of education has been going up at that rate. that's one reason Ch. 70 funding and other state funding has been cut over the last decade - Boston keeps crying poormouth to Beacon Hill - they take one look at our budget compared to other cities/towns in the commonwealth and when they manage to pick themselves up off the ground from laughing they say "NO".

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The way the state figures out that black line

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I agree that Boston isn't poor, but I don't think what I've posted is "entirely irrelevant". Here's (roughly) how chapter 70 funding works:

  1. The state determines the city's foundation budget by taking into account student need, cost of living in the city (to adjust for expected differences in salaries across the state), and probably a few other factors. As far as I know, this figure, the purple striped on in the graph, has nothing to do with the wealth of the city (other than the cost of living factor). I'd welcome a correction here if my understanding is wrong.
  2. Next, the state determines the city's required contribution to the budget. This takes the city's wealth into account, factoring in both taxable property values and income levels in the city. Because of restrictions on the amount of year-to-year revenue growth in a city (basically, proposition 2 1/2), the city's required contribution is not allowed to increase by more than 3.83% from the previous year's required contribution. It is also capped at 82.5% of the foundation budget.
  3. The state aid is calculated by subtracting the city's required contribution from the foundation budget. State aid must increase by at least $25 per pupil per year, as well.

Note that if your state aid exceeds the difference between the foundation budget and the required local contribution (due to the $25 per pupil increase), the city is still required to spend that minimum amount. The black dotted line is the sum of the local requirement and the state aid. In other words, it is mostly determined by need, and not by wealth. The only portion of it that is truly determined by the city's wealth is the amount by which the state aid exceeds the difference between the foundation budget and the required local contribution. This amount is the gap between the dashed black line and the purple striped line. For FY2015, this amount is projected to be $58,072,236. Nothing to sneeze at, sure, but only about 7% of the city's required net school spending.

In other words, yes, the state has determined that just by taking need into account, and NOT Boston's wealth, education is getting significantly more expensive for Boston. They've also determined that Boston is wealthy enough to pay a larger portion of the budget. But if Boston continues to calculate the school budget at 35% of the city's total budget, how can we expect the budget to keep up with the rising costs?

Because

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Inflation is running at about 2-2.5%. The school system is shrinking. Boston's total budget (and thus the school budget) increase each year by about 4% - far outpacing the increase in costs.

I also find that graph interesting - from 200-2006 there was very little increase in the foundation budget. Suddenly from 2007-2010 there was a sudden increase in the foundation budget which then magically leveled from 2011-2013 and bumped up just this year. Somehow that foundation seems to be highly correlated not even to the broader economy, but economic sentiment - or perhaps more accurately real estate values which drives Boston's budget. I'll have to look closer - but I don't think this has much to do with how much it costs to educate a student and a lot to do with the strength the local real estate market. Those numbers are very suspicious - they are flatter when inflation was "normal" and steeper when inflation was flattening, the opposite of what you would expect.

The point remains - the problem has not been a shortage of money for well over a decade.

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One caveat...

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When you say that "the school system is shrinking", please note that the because these are state calculations, the figures I'm citing include charter school students (whose tuition, it should be noted, is part of the city's school budget). So it may not be true that my graphs have anything to do with the student population shrinking.

However, if you find the foundation budget numbers "suspicious", it would be interesting to see if you could dig up anything that supports your suspicion that they are based on wealth and not need. As far as I know, that's not the case, or at least it's not supposed to be. And if they really are need based, and Boston's true cost of adequately educating its students really is rising that fast, then I'd argue that a shortage of money - whether real or manufactured - is at play here. Boston's ability to increase revenue is significantly hampered by proposition 2 1/2, and if the costs truly are rising at the rates suggested by the foundation budgets, we really may be running up against the limits of what we can afford. I'd absolutely love to see Boston translate more of its wealth to revenue, but I'm just not sure if we have the political will to make it happen.

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2007-2010

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I just noticed that you specifically called out what happened over this span. Interestingly, the chapter 70 formula was revised in 2007.

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That probably explains the rise

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For the first few years - I think I saw something about this being phased in. Then it flattens except for 2014 (when the city thought student population at least in BPS would go up - it actually went down).

I think at least in part they are trying to cover for the loss of this revenue - two years ago they missed a big bump in K2-Grade 1 and were under capacity. Then they thought they'd get another big bump - and they didn't - so a lot of the per capita funds and calculations got cut.

Again - all numbers have an agenda per my point below. I think the parents of this town are being taken for a ride. I get 3-4% increases (which is about what the budget is increasing). But I'm seeing 6-10% increases on many things out of the city and those numbers just don't make sense.

Think about it - you said your child's school alone needs to chop 15 heads - let's say that's TWICE the average of 7 heads per school - That's almost 1000 people or like 12-15% of the staff - and that's just school based staff - not Court Street, not central maintenance and whatever else.

I've been in enough donnybrooks out here to know that there are a lot of good people and good things happening in BPS. But I've also been around the block monitoring the budget enough to know that what they say from Jan 1 to about May 1 is complete agenda driven BS. You are right to fight for your kids - and I'm all for spending on public schools - but only if they are spending wisely and having been at this for over a decade, once again, their numbers aren't adding up.

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What we're going to do with "more"

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As a parent, here's what I'm hoping we'll do with "more" - try not to lose any more staff and programming. For me, getting more money into the school isn't the end goal at all, it's ensuring that the school provides all of the programming and services that it should. Next year my daughters' school is projected to lose 15 staff members; does it sound like I'm asking for "more" when I suggest that perhaps the city could do a bit better than that? Sure, BPS could - and should - find ways to reduce expenses. But at the same time, it would be nice to see the city actually fund cost increases that it previously committed to. Underfunded salary increases and other mandates are a big part of the story here. To make matters worse, the city knew full well that federal funding would decrease and state aid would effectively stay level when they approved those cost increases.

As for per-pupil spending, the raw numbers don't really tell the whole story here, either. Going by the state's chapter 70 funding formula, which takes into account both student need and cost of living (Boston has to pay its teachers more because it's so expensive to live here), Boston has the highest per-pupil foundation budget in the entire state. That is, the state has determined that Boston's students are more expensive to educate than those from any other district in the state. I'd have to dig up the statistics again, but I recall seeing that Boston generally spends about 8% above its state-determined foundation budget, whereas the average school district in Massachusetts exceeds its foundation budget by 15% or so. Again, I'm not suggesting that there isn't waste in Boston's budget, but I don't think we should overstate things when we talk about how generously Boston is funded, either - the budget is big for some legitimate reasons. Along the same lines, comparing per-pupil spending between BPS and charter schools isn't really easy, since they don't really serve the same population.

I think most parents would be overjoyed if BPS came up with some way to fund all of its existing programming without increasing its expenses - after all, we're taxpayers, too! The reality I see, though, is that there's a whole lot going on here. When you get right down to it, we need BPS to be more efficient, we need to recognize that education is expensive in Boston, and we need the city and state to fund all of the cost increases they impose on the schools.

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so you want to fund the status quo

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Fine - the schools are getting an extra 4.x% to do that - about double the rate of inflation for what I think will be a smaller school district (plus they have to "re-downsize" for mistakenly upsizing last year). Per needed employee after doing this they are getting an increase in the high single digits. How on the face of God's green earth can they not manage to level fund the system with a net increase 3-4 times the rate of inflation?

Here's how they can't manage to level fund the system

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At least from FY2014-2015, here's how:

  • The $35.9M budget increase almost exactly matches increases in salaries and benefits
  • Transportation, student services, and maintenance costs have gone up by about $24M
  • Federal aid has decreased by about $31M

I'm sure you have a nice tidy rant about the second bullet point queued up, and probably some of your criticism is deserved. Still, the city approved these cost increases knowing full well that federal aid was going away and state aid was staying roughly level. As parents, are we supposed to just sit by and let the city do this to our schools? I think it's totally reasonable be upset that all the parties involved can't get their act together enough to figure out how to get schools the resources they need.

Actually

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I kind of accept the transportation thing - not much we can do about it - but I'd have to question what's driving these costs up by $24 million - what was it last year? Once you take out salaries and bennies - there's about $300 million left in the budget - even if it's all non HR costs you are looking at an 8% increase? I smell something fishy with that number.

Look at that personnel number alone - that's a 6% increase assuming 70% of the budget goes to labor - and probably assumes we need to fill all of last year's positions even though the schools are shrinking.

As for the reduction in federal funding - to my knowledge federal funding is all part of external funds. Some of it is per capita - and I think the school population is projected to decline significantly. A lot of other stuff are grants, temporary funds, pilot programs etc. and is highly volatile. This has nothing to do with core education funding. The operating budget comes from taxes and other city revenues - not federal funding. Much as I like and respect John McDonough - if they are linking external funds to this argument they are deliberately misleading the parents to scare people.

Remember -the city has an agenda - they want the state to think we are poor so we get more money. They want you to think we are poor so they can justify new revenue streams. Meanwhile, we have one of the highest paid municipal staffs in the entire world - literally.

You have to stop taking the city's numbers at face value. Nothing you've said (or them) seems to hold up in the light of reality.

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Wow, nothing I've said holds up?

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Sorry to have wasted your time by pointing out that the state's figures - not the city's - show a steep increase in education costs for the city. And that the state - not the city - has effectively stopped increasing our chapter 70 aid because they've caught on to the fact that, as you note, our city is wealthy. And that even as more of the costs are expected to be borne by the city, we've kept our funding at ~35% of the city budget, while revenues are restricted by proposition 2 1/2.

You are correct that revenues have increased somewhat. You are correct that BPS could be better at budgeting, and that some of the cost increases are self-imposed and maybe foolish. You are correct that at times BPS misleads us with its budget figures. You are also ignoring the possibility that there may well be real cost increases here that we're not keeping up with, and that's the entire reason I'm bringing up the state's funding formula - it's effectively a second opinion to compare against what the city is telling us.

Read my comments again. I'm not walking in lockstep with BPS or letting them off the hook - I've consistently agreed that part of the solution is that BPS needs to get better at spending its money wisely. I'm just trying to provide some more insight into where some of these budget figures actually come from. If you disagree with what the chapter 70 funding formula says about what the city should be spending on education, it would be great to see some specific criticisms, rather than just vague talk about suspicions and agendas.

I told you

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Based on your numbers - $35 million in staff cost increases and $24 million in transport/maintenance/services - (

These numbers can't be real. What costs are going up almost 10% as they claim? Across the board!

The state numbers are irrelevant because we are so far over the foundation and the required spend (which is why we get so little aid) that it doesn't matter. It may matter that we are not getting as much aid - but surprise - you know what happens when they give us more aid? It doesn't go to the schools - they may use that earmarked money for the schools but then they take the savings and give it to the cops, or firemen or somebody else. It's irrelevant except maybe very slightly on the margin. Even if the state handed the schools $100 million tomorrow - the schools would only see about 35% of this net because the balance of the "general" funds would just get redirected elsewhere. That's the way they allocate the budget. They could do it differently - but they don't.

What matters is that the schools are getting a 4.x% increase for a smaller system and they are crying poormouth - how is that mathematically possible unless we are giving away the candy store?

Again - the problem is not "not enough money". The problem is the extra money keeps going into a black hole that funds the status quo and we never see more than marginal impacts from more money and there is no direct accountability - i.e. if you don't achieve x you lose y (or if you achieve x you get z). I've seen the city do this almost every year for over a decade that I've been following this and somehow "magically" come June when they finalize the budget they always manage to find the money to do pretty much what they did the year before. This isn't anything new.

Stop it already. You are buying their crap and getting mad at the wrong people. There is plenty of money to level fund REASONABLE cost increases. But they are selling us a bag of horse manure and the parents are breaking out the spoons and trying to offer the rest of us a bite. No thanks.

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Nope

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I'm not "buying their crap" and you don't seem to have a complete understanding of who I'm "getting mad at". I think there are budget inefficiencies and cost increases. I'm not mad at a single side, I'm mad about the way both of these sides of the budget are conspiring to deprive my kids' school of basic services. I've focused more on the cost increase side of the issue in this thread, but believe me, I'm aware of the whole picture. I hope you are, too.

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Yes - but cost increases are manageable and exaggerated

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They do this every year.

Step 1 - claim exorbitant cost increases and threaten staff layoffs.

Step 2 - Get parents all revved up to protest for more funds. There aren't any - but it paves the way for "new revenue streams"

Step 3 - Get new revenue streams if you can (meals tax, inspection fees, etc.)

Step 4 - tell everyone the real numbers (which are reasonably affordable), wipe sweat off brow and tell constituents how hard this was, but you managed to balance the budget and that it's going to be harder next year. Cut staff by attrition to account for smaller school district size and reallocate personnel.

Step 5 - go out for drinks with colleagues and congratulate each other for pulling the wool over everyone's eyes yet again (except Beacon Hill that plays the game but learned the rules about 10 years ago - thus every year our state aid gets cut).

Yes there are cost increases - probably in the 4-5% range - very affordable this year especially after a little attrition (meaning your kids won't see major service cuts - marginal, maybe - not major) and opening of new charter schools. A little harder next because of increases given to cops and firemen, so teachers won't get big raises for next round of collective bargaining - and cops and firemen won't get big raises after that. Expect tigher budgets - no cuts, just smaller increases - to everything else and if the real estate market slows down, even smaller increases.

This is the same game every year. There is no bigger picture. That's it - unless we do something stupid or some cost goes through the roof (like healthcare which as moderated) or pensions - but they aren't part of this budget anyway.

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Glad to hear...

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...that a couple of years ago when my kids' school lost its librarian (and hence, for all intents and purposes, its library) it wasn't a major service cut. Believe it or not, real, meaningful cuts DO happen within this ridiculous process, and this year the projected cuts are deeper than many of us parents have ever seen. I'm glad you're so sure everything's going to be all right, though.

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What?

I think the point is that funding is staying increasing, but BPS isn't being honest about where the costs are going up and why.

As for the library, that's a bummer but was that related to the implementation of weighted funding? If so, at least that was a case of funds being more equitably distributed instead of having the old winner school / loser school funding mechanism where certain schools had tons more resources for largely identical populations of students.

A fair point

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You're right that I shouldn't be so quick to attribute the cut of the librarian to a single factor. Still, it is indeed a "bummer" that BPS can't manage to fund libraries across the district, and in that context it's hard to take an "everything's going to be all right" kind of comment. We've seen real harm done by limitations to the BPS budget of one kind or another. Whether you believe all of this year's cost increases are bogus, all of them are legitimate, or somewhere in between, hopefully you can agree that our schools shouldn't be forced to make these kinds of cuts. I happen to think that at least some of the cost increases are legitimate, and it's worth parents' time to try to figure out how to fund them. As I've said many times, if it's possible, I'd be happy with doing that via efficiency improvements elsewhere in the budget, but I'm not holding my breath. If you and/or Stevil disagree that some of the cost increases are legitimate, there's probably not much more that I can say that would convince you.

In between

I think BPS is badly managed by people with good intentions.

I think the lottery reform process is a good example. They had tons of community meetings and dealt with tons of passionate/angry people, spent hours devising plans and then pretty much threw that all out the window once the MIT person came up with their proposal. I remember the meeting at the Ohrenberger where there were hundreds of parents to learn about the various proposals and yet the proposal used wasn't even presented at that meeting.

It angers me as a parent how much of my time BPS has wasted over the years. There are hundreds of professionals involved in running this $1B district and we need to get together in the evening over pizza to figure out how to pay for copier paper? The BPS always seemed to have time to have the SSC discuss the latest in community out reach or family friendly schools initiatives or how to get 10,000 Chromebooks but fully seems to expect parents to source the chalk and erasers. WTF is that?

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I have every confidence things will be ok - and here's why

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In the 06/07 school year BPS had 56388 students and 8299 staff (6.8 students per staff member)

In 13/14 school year they had only 54,300 students and had hired an additional 170 staff members (6.4 students per staff member)

the total staff has varied from a post crisis low of 8027 and a high of (last year's) 8469.

By the district's own admission, they over-budgeted significantly for students that never enrolled. The world hasn't collapsed in the meantime and they could let go 500 people and still be at the same ratios they were in 2007 even if student population remains the same - and I actually think it's supposed to shrink by several percent due to demographics as well as the opening of several new charters.

Not saying things like librarians etc. don't get shuffled around, but that looks like it was more a reallocation of resources.

Again - this is another example of why the city's numbers simply don't work. They have almost the most staff they've ever had, the fewest number of students and a 4% plus increase in funding and somehow the world is coming to an end because costs are skyrocketing. Go figure. Literally.

Heads may roll (and if history repeats - by attrition - not pink slip), but the kids'll be alright.

We'll find out, I guess

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You seem awfully confident. I still have my doubts. At this point I'm pretty sure this conversation isn't going anywhere other than that.

I think you are ignoring....

... ongoing kindergarten and pre-kindergarten expansion. Lots more staff needed per student at this level. So total student levels could go down somewhat and staff would still need to be increased to cover more early education students. I know some elementary schools lost their libraries due to the need for adding pre-first grade classrooms (and nothing was left but libraries, art rooms, etc.).

Nope - now I'm 100% confident

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Staffing from an all time high of 8745 (apparently they changed the 2014 budget that is available online increasing the projected staff from 8469 to a whopping 8745) is getting cut under the current proposal to 8587. I think that these "cuts" still make that the largest BPS staff this century - or pretty close to it - for the smallest school district we've had in probably almost a century.

Here's the link dated March 4 - so pretty recent data:

http://www.bostonpublicschools.org/budget

click on the line item that says FY15 Budget Proposal: all accounts and download the spreadsheet.

Click on the second tab - Acct.GF.detail and on line 89 it shows total staffing (we can argue forever over allocation - but total cuts from last year are 2% - for a school district slated to shrink 2-4%)

Also if you scroll way down to line 195 you can see that this budget proposal magically sums to the preliminary budget of $973,270,500

You've been had. You should be pissed - but not because of budget cuts. Minor - probably less than attrition - about in line with student population declines.

Because they lied.

Again.

You ignored my point

The increase in pre-1st grade classrooms requires more staff per student for these classrooms -- than would be the case for regular elementary classrooms. So the total number of elementary (plus k and pre-k) students could go down a bit, yet more staff would be needed if there are more k and pre-k kids in the mix.

Sorry

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meant to reply to CK -and clicked on yours.

This is probably the hardest to predict - so not faulting BPS on this - but the biggest cuts are actually to kindergarten teachers - dropping 40 positions of a total loss of 64 FTEs systemwide. They way overbudgeted last year and are cutting back. So at least BPS doesn't think that's the problem.

(see lines 11 and 13 in the spreadsheet noted)

Defunding Some of the Best Schools - Public

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I have been talking with parents from The Philbrick Elementary, a Boston Public School, a tier 1 school (read, best) who have had to cut their supply budget to zero. That's pencils and paper, copier ink, etc. The parents are going to try and pay for these supplies. It's a really sad story, but that's what's happening to some exceptionally good schools. This is all you really need to know.

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B2MuR3TGW3tYRjh0YUpEeU1NanpPZDItSUhORkJh...

There is 4.3 billion in state aid up for grabs and the charters want it all. Backed by billionaire backers, taking what we all owned and giving it to the likes of Halliburton and Blackwater.

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where to start???

I'm tired of hearing people say that BPS is "failing" its students. Where is this coming from? I have three children who, at this point in their young academic careers, have in total attended four Boston public schools and overall, our experience has been excellent. While this is not the case for everyone, the ignorant claim, most likely by people who have never had children in the BPS, is just getting old.

Does Boston spend more per capita than the other districts in the Commonwealth? That may or may not be. Does Boston have challenges that other districts in the Commonwealth do not? Unquestionably.

ALL of Boston's schools are facing debilitating cuts next year. This loss of services and staff will be devastating to the programming that has been developed over the past few years and it will hurt our children. To lift the charter cap at this time is just NOT a responsible decision on the part of our law makers. The focus must be on continuing to build successful programming in every school for every student.

We are not dumping money into a black hole here in BPS. Those of you who seem to feel that way should actually set foot in one of our schools some day and see what happens over the course of a typical school day and watch how our children are learning.

And until we don't have teachers who need to buy their own copy paper, pencils and other supplies because the supply budget has been completely eradicated, we shouldn't even think of cutting the pieces of the pie any smaller.

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You've had an "excellent" experience in 4 different schools?

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I just find this so hard to believe. As the parent of a recent graduate (and as a BPS student myself back in the day) I'd say--even at my most generous--that the experience was wildly mixed. Wildly. Some truly wonderful teachers but also some real horror shows (or maybe no-shows would be a better term). Plenty of other issues with resources, infrastructure, disciplinary problems...I'm just not sure, I guess, with what you're comparing the BPS experience. But I think our experience overall, at schools that were mostly considered some of the shining stars of the system, was typical among my daughter's friends. I would truly love to find a way to reward and promote the many extraordinary teachers we encountered but there seems to be nothing in place to encourage improvement and progress.

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sorry, i guess.

First of all, why would I bother to make that up? Secondly, I said, "overall." Not every day has ended with sunshine and lollipops, but my kids are learning and thriving with the educators and education they are receiving. Maybe we just have been extremely lucky so far. I do keep my fingers crossed, and if someone out there can find the Utopian school system, please do let me know. When comparing the BPS experience with another, which other experience should that be, exactly?

However, it's a good point you make, because improvements need to be made so that all families share a feeling of satisfaction with the quality of education and see that excellent educators are encouraged and rewarded. It helps no one to see students flocking to charters and leave the most challenging kids behind.

The key point being though, that we need to keep focused on what is at hand here. Until all students are equally served and thriving why would we open the floodgates and have more charters with which to share limited resources?

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Despite your own experience

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why is it hard to believe that parents have had overall good or excellent experiences in different schools? Is it that so hard to believe? My kids (2) have attended a total of 4 different schools and we have generally also had very positive experiences. I've been really impressed with the dedication of the teachers, their willingness to get to know my kids as individuals and their effectiveness as teachers. No, we are not teachers or members of the BTU. But I do support BPS teachers and feel that many don't get the recognition they deserve.

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Um...

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Because as I mentioned, I was a BPS parent AND a student and frankly many of the issues I saw in 1980 are exactly the same as what I saw in 2002. My daughter also attended four different BPS schools, most of them very well regarded. And because I have talked to so many other parents over the years and don't think I have ever heard ANY parent describe their children's' schools as uniformly "excellent."

What you don't acknowledge in my comment is that I agree with you that the great teachers we knew do NOT get the recognition or rewards they deserve. Time and again I've seen terrific teachers get pink-slipped. And countless times too we've seen terrible teaching and sometimes inexcusable behavior go completely ignored, swept under the rug, etc. I'm curious as to why acknowledging this is considered "not" being supportive of teachers.

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I guess I'm with Ann and Kathode

Count me as another parent who thinks BPS schools do not deserve the reputation promoted by people like you and Stevil, Sally. My children are thriving at BPS schools, and they have attended every level, representing almost 19 academic years worth of experience in the system. I have been very impressed by the skill, dedication. and professionalism of the staff, whether it be teachers, administrators, or the school custodian. They work with every child, every population, and success is not based on self-selection or skimming the cream from the top.

My experience is far from unique, as I have had many friends and co-workers who chose BPS for their children, very few, in fact possibly none of these families was disappointed by the choice.

Now, that said, the issue here is whether it makes sense to expand charters on the false idea that BPS schools cannot succeed. If the decision were revenue neutral, I might not care, because I do like the idea of more options and am not arguing that the teachers at charters are any less than those at BPS. But every time a student is added to the charter population, the average per student cost is transferred out of BPS to the charter. That's an average that includes higher cost students (SPED, ESL, etc.), which is to say the students that the charters reject. This means that the average cost goes up for BPS, as the percentage of special needs goes up. But the available money doesn't change. This puts pressure on the budget that wouldn't apply if all students were still pooled within a single system.

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Stevil?

Stevil's core point as I read it is that the budget is steadily increasing, the number of students steadily decreasing and this is an issue which needs to be examined.

There are three topics I think, which are related but not totally overlapping.

1) Are the BPS school underfunded and where is the money going to come from and/or where is it going which could be redirected?

2) Is the BPS school meeting the expectations of various Uhub posters. Personally, I think the BPS my kid has had were good, with one glaring exception. However, my experiences with BPS overall are not great - terrible wait list management, endless wasted hours at SSC meetingslistening to the latest nonsense from BPS, totally opaque in so many ways, all at a huge price tag.

3) Overall, if most of us have decent experiences at the BPS, why were there 12000 applications for 2000 seats? Even if you think the BPS is great, clearly that's not universal. I don't think the average Brooke parent has been suckered by some sinister Halliburton marketing campaign.

I can't find any single verified description of how charter schools 'skim the cream from the top' by having a lottery admission system. I'm only familiar with the Brooke, so maybe you can point me to some proof of this happening elsewhere? The Brooke has a very heavily subscribed lottery where most kids don't get in. At the K2 level, I don't think there's any valid stats even available the Brooke could consider at that age. It's certainly not a school population which draws heavily from middle class like the AWC program.

The Mass. Charter School

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Assn. has tended in the past to overinflate charter waitlist numbers. Some parents put the same child on waitlists at multiple charter schools but each instance is counted as 1 student. Also, it's not clear when the students are taken off these waitlists year to year. Add to that the fact that charters often do not offer open spots in their schools to students on the waitlist even though there is space available. They just leave the seats empty -- seats that we as taxpayers are all paying for.

Actual fact

My kid was on the wait list at the Brooke for 3 years and when we were notified about getting accepted, we hadn't had any contact with the Brooke since the initial K2 application. A seat became available when a kid moved out of state, Unless of course you think the Brooke administrators are setting up elaborate lies to new students, I'm not seeing where any of your post matches up with my actual experience.

You've got a lot of allegations in your post, but in my experience at the Brooke the seats are all full and people are waiting a long time to get in. I'm sure there are cases where what you're saying happens, but is it in Boston or just pulled from some random Edushyster screed? Citations needed...

And I didn't know we were taking sides.

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I'll say it one more time. We had some truly fantastic teachers, starting in K and ending senior year of high school. We also had some horrifying teachers, especially in high school--people who had no business teaching math or history to anyone let alone at one of the most prestigious public schools around. There never seemed ANY difference in the way these teachers were treated and the principals seemed to have their hands tied when it came to any kind of reward or discipline.

And yes--my daughter thrived. That's not what this is about. She's a motivated, bright kid who grew up in a house full of books and always loved being in a classroom. But when she compared her overall academic experience with friends in other school systems, not to mention resources like art, sports, music, she found the differences pretty stunning, especially when it comes to the kids who don't come in with the advantages she did. I don't think that confronting the realities of the school system and looking at different ways we might be able to do it better means that I'm dissing teachers as a whole or blaming them for all the problems inherent in the system. And I get frustrated, frankly, that every conversation that's remotely critical of the schools--literally because I question the notion that these schools are "excellent"--into a you-hate-teachers rant or that I'm holding us to some impossibly high standard.

Are you talking about Boston Latin Sally?

Because Boston Latin is basically in another school system than Boston English or Madison Park. Boston Latin is a great school, and statistically is probably on par with other great public high schools in Massachusetts (85%+ going to 4 year colleges, SAT averages over 1650 or so, 90% of AP tests 3 or better with 20% of students taking an AP test, 10% of students as National Merit letters of commendations, semi finalists or finalists or winners, etc, etc)

I think you have to look at these Stats from the top down. If your school is really "great", then your numbers above will reflect that.

(This wasn't really directed at anything you said, but it sounds like you are comparing your kids experience to "outside" school systems, when schools inside your own system are so radically different in terms of results, they should be considered different school systems)

No...

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She went to Boston Latin--she had a lot of friends though in schools surrounding Boston--the ones that parents move out of Boston for. Brookline, Newton, Needham, etc. Now that she's in college she's meeting a whole new group of kids from comparable schools. Frankly BLS is a whole other complex conversation. But her opinions (and mine) about how the system works has a lot to do with what we saw in the regular classrooms--not AWC and the exam schools.

Sally, no school or system

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has 100% great teachers. And yes, BPS has some teachers who should get some remediation to their teaching or leave. Are you implying the charters have better teachers? I would rather my kids have skilled and experienced teachers than enthusiastic college grads with no ability to control a classroom.

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That's not what I said, is it?

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Look--I have no skin in this game. We didn't go to a charter school--at the time the chances of getting into one were infinitesimal and there were none that were convenient. So I am not rabidly pro-charter but I have a reflexive suspicion of this whole line that the schools are just perfectly OK and hey--why mess with a good thing? Especially if you're taking the line that "it worked for MY kids so it must be fine." It is NOT working for a lot of kids. And sorry, but among the excellent teachers I've known, there were both older and experienced AND younger, enthusiastic ones. Seniority guaranteed absolutely nothing in terms of quality, enthusiasm or competence.

No ability to control a classroom?

Again, I don't know where you are getting your info.

In my direct experience, the Brooke teachers are far more effective at controlling their classroom, regardless of their age and experience. It is a stricter school where disruptions aren't tolerated and where disruptive kids are handled differently than the BPS. We had very good teachers at the BPS, but they still had much bigger issues controlling kids, mostly because the school administration wasn't set-up to handle disruptive kids. The only response was to make everyone wait at their desks until the problem kid had settled down, and then everyone could go to lunch or recess, 5 minutes late. This resulted in a lot of half eaten lunches due to a lack of time to eat. The Brooke has a code of conduct which kids are expected to adhere to and by and large they do.

Charters are public

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Charter schools are public schools. They are funded by the taxpayer and are open to the public. I suppose what is really at the heart of this (setting aside the union issue) is that the money follows the student to a charter. Personally, I think that public education should be funded at the student level, so I see the money traveling with the student as simple common sense whether it be to a charter school or a traditional public school. Considering the demand for charters I don't see why we wouldn't just allow more of them until demand is met. Why shouldn't people be allowed to choose?

If only it were that simple.

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If only it were that simple. Yes choice sounds good, really good, but it's not the silver bullet to all that hurts public ed. Some charters are doing a good job and are inclusive of almost all students (they are at least trying). But many aren't inclusive of ELLs, students with severe disabilities or students with behavior issues or severe trauma. All of this information is on the DESE website. Maybe we should raise the cap a bit more, but in it's current state if we raise it too much we will have a two tiered system of education. That is problematic on so many levels and is a civil rights violation. Again, none of this is simple and solutions to make charters better and make district schools better are very complicated. We should spend our time working on those solutions.

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Two Tiered Schools

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I don't dissagree that we need more charters that focus on the most "at risk" students to help them succeed. Perhaps the cap should be lifted for models that focuss on language emersion, special education, or other needs. However, I still don't understand the "two-tiered" issue. Not every school is going to work for every kid. We already recognize that through exam schools, which have existed here literally for centuries. I agree that we should be focussed on how to make public education better for the kids, but I don't see why that is a charter versus district school issue.

Those not in BPS classrooms

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Sure have a lot to say about how to "fix" them. As a teacher in BPS I would like to whey in on this often exhaustive debate that, in my opinion, usually most comments completely miss the boat on. The public/charter debate is a distraction from the real elephant in the room which is income inequality.

Currently in Boston the schools that are considered good, magically becoming or have become great whether charter or standard BPS, have done so at the careful maneuverings of our most better off and better educated parents. Now these parents are well within their rights for advocating for their children however we must also think of the parents who cannot advocate for themselves and their children for various reasons (language barriers, lack of education, overall poor parenting skills, absurd work schedules etc.) all of which contribute to the difficult/challenging to teach/test group of students that the "other parents" are trying to move there own children away from. These children to know shock to anyone with common sense perform lower on standardized tests, are disproportionately SPED either cognitively or behaviorally and require the special love and attention of experienced teachers.

For anyone who has had the luxury of observing these students in action at any length understand that the milestones achieved by these students through the hard work and dedication of there teachers is worth every penny spent on that educator. There definitely is some cleaning up to do of our less effective staff however there has always been systems in place to remove these teachers despite the often misguided claims of the public. It has always been up to the administrative staff to initiate that process and in schools that want to clean house have always done so.

Now I've also read some very disparaging comments concerning unions and it saddens me to hear the "fighting over scraps" argument put forth against a system that holds up a middle class. Having a system that ensures a living wage, time for maternity/paternity leave, ensures that job security exists for those who are good at their jobs amongst countless other benefits is not a bad thing as well as ensuring the profession pays on par with the private sector. The union issue unfortunately once again has turned into a "if I don't have it you shouldn't either" divisive debate. (Interesting to note the correlation between the rise of income inequality and the disbanding of unions.)

Bottom line, while BPS is not perfect the debate should focus more on how we can get families the income and resources they need to provide a home that produces children willing and capable of learning and hopefully have a more affluent/educated Boston community that is willing to have these families in the same schools as their own children whether it be charter or standard bps. ....Although it does feel better and is easier conscience wise to ignore the elephant....

Metco budget

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Take the 17 million allocated for Metco and spend it on kids in BPS

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Haley

Funny how the Haley found funding to expand to a K-8 even with a large middle school just up the street- I guess some schools are more equal than others.

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I think so, yes.

People have put a ton of time and effort into the Irving Pathway, a program to improve the Irving (and its reputation) so Roslindale families would feel like they had something like a k-8 path in their neighborhood. Now the Haley opted out, so those kids will instead stay at the Haley, along with their funding. I don't know if the Irving attendance will now drop correspondingly, but I think so because aren't the middle schools undersubscribed?

grow up and read

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There are NO BUDGET CUTS. The city is saying they can't afford 6-10% cost increases. Stop arguing for more money and ask them why the hell costs are spiraling out of control for a system has decreasing student population.

You are playing right into their hands. this is what they want you to do but they are full of crap. They are getting a 4.x % increase - which for a smaller system translates to a high single digit increase. If they can't afford that it's not due to a lack of money -it's due to mismanagement.

Stop using CPI as the benchmark

You keep saying there is no cut because absolute dollar amounts are set to increase by more than inflation. But there are many costs associated with a labor intensive budget that are rising faster (hint: health care).

You can't simply look at the Consumer Price Index and assume that the schools' budgets should rise accordingly. Maybe if you were actually involved with one of the schools, you could better understand the impact, but the issue regards "discretionary" items like art, music, and school supplies. Funding for these things are absolutely being cut, and if you don't believe that, then you must not know anybody involved with the actual schools.

Show me the cuts

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The CPI is jus an index as a means of comparison - broadly used to make sure your income is keeping up with inflation (and in the real world health care and other employment related expenses all count - health care - thanks to a moderating and a slight tweak to the benefits formula isn't that big a deal in the last few years - I think it even went down one year).

More importantly -

1) as pointed out repeatedly - the budget is going up - substantially by most measures - not down as it has almost every year except Fy 2010 - the first budget after the financial crisis.

2) last year we had the most school employees in the recent history of the district - it is coming down 2% this year (probably by attrition)

Seriously - what more do you want. Don't blame the taxpayers if the school district in its infinite wisdom hires lunch monitors and custodians instead of art and music teachers.

Your outrage (in the collective BPS parents outrage) is misdirected - and from a "cuts" perspective grossly inaccurate.

I repeat - there are no cuts - even the very few heads being reduced are needed reductions in capacity - not cuts.

He knows all that needs to be known....

... because he has read the numbers. And everyone one knows that numbers tell us everything we need to know. The purity of numbers would be sullied if one looked at messy, non-numerical alleged-facts. ;-}

Facts

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Like non-existent cuts? Like a budget that has grown - massively and consistently?

So let me ask you back - where do you get "more"

There are only two solutions:

1) new revenue streams - what should we tax?

2) Cuts- where?

Don't just say more and argue that these non-existent cuts are happening - tell me where this magical money should come from?

Like it or not, the entire world runs on numbers - some are financial, some are physics, but the inconvenient truth is that when the numbers don't add up, the system doesn't work.

Separate And Unequal

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What happens to the children, who through no fault of their own, wind up in the plain-old now-defunded public schools?

It just seems unfair, and un-American; the privatized charter schools create a class distinction, dividing up the next generation at an early age. The whole idea just doesn't seem right to me.

Or you know, read a bit

and you'll find that what you are describing isn't happening at all.

Go to the Brooke, get a tour and then tell me about what the class distinction is at that charter school. It's not a predominantly middle-class school. Whatever the problems are with charter schools, class isn't one of them.

I'd bet a ton of money that the biggest class distinction in BPS/charter schools is between AWC and regular ed. How many of the active BPS parents on this topic had AWC kids? I'd guess most of them.

No, That's Not What I'm Saying ...

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... I know that charter schools themselves are not class distinctive, but I'm concerned about the children who can't attend a charter school. It's not their fault, but they'll be placed in another type of public school, which society is now beginning to judge as less-preferable.

Why should these children receive a "second rate" education, when both kinds of schools are publicly funded? It's the different class of education dividing the children.

Isn't that already happening?

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I hear you but if you think that's not the existing state of things, with middle-class, aspiring parents scrambling like musical chairs for spots in overcrowded "good" schools, vying for a spot in the exam schools, and then everyone else being just SOL, then I think you have to look more closely.

I see

It's funny because you could easily be making the argument to expand charter schools - why limit the amount of this better education available? Why deny a successful charter the opportunity to reach more kids. I understand that is not the point you are making though.

I think it is extremely, extremely unlikely that charter schools will expand to the point where they do serious harm to the BPS budget while Walsh is in office at least. He was elected by the teachers unions (among others) and I'm sure he's aware of where his support is. Also, there are legions of passionate BPS parents who are fighting for their side of this (see above comments.)

And yes--very likely.

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In my (admittedly limited) experience, there were a lot of complex class and cultural issues going on between the AWC and the regular ed classes. In our particular school it had less to do, as I saw it, with income than with...idk, expectations, aspirations, which tended to divvy things along racial lines. Our AWC class was full to bursting with children of new immigrants from all around the globe and all pretty much middle and lower income as far as I knew but the regular classes were predominantly African-American and sometimes seemed like a different world. The social pressures and shifts we observed there during elementary and middle school were fascinating, sometimes alarming, often just sad.