Panel says BPS could save money by shutting schools, reducing teacher salary increases and making more kids walk to school

A committee set up to consider how to keep Boston Public Schools afloat today released a series of suggestions it says could save the system $100 million a year. Among them:

Shut schools. Boston has too many underutilized and small schools. Time to end that. Also, enough with the 24 different configurations of grade levels at different schools: Settle on a systemwide series of levels to transition from one school to the next.

Don't give teachers such big raises anymore. On average, Boston teachers now earn $16,000 more than teachers in surrounding suburbs even though we have some of the shortest school days in the country. The committee is of the opinion the BTU would go along with reducing future salary increases - and adding 40 minutes to the school day - to bring Boston in line with those other communities.

Make more kids walk to school and reduce school choice.

While the state requires the district to provide transportation only to kindergarten through sixth-grade students who live more than two miles away from school, BPS offers transportation for elementary students who live more than one mile from school, middle school students who live more than 1.5 miles from school, and high school students who live more than two miles from school.

Also, BPS spends too much on busing kids to schools farther away from their homes because the current assignment system requires students to get a chance at at least one high-performing school even if not near their homes. The committee says, fine, let those kids stay in those more distant schools, but BPS shouldn't pay to bus them anymore.

This is all compounded by the need to have multiple layers of bus readiness because of the fact that BPS schools now have three different opening times - and some have longer hours than others. So slash the number of bell times, and, while you're at it, increase the maximum possibly time a kid should spend on a bus from 60 to 90 minutes, which would mean fewer bus routes.

Convince the legislature to help Boston. The committee says Boston has lost $48 million over the past three years because the state failed to pay as much as it promised to reimburse BPS for kids who moved to charter schools. The problem only compounds in the future because Boston is designated a "rich" community, even though it has a higher percentage of special-needs and English learners than other school districts and charter schools. The committee calls for working with legislators - the majority of whom do not represent Boston - to fix this. Also, the city needs more flexibility to bring in new revenue because, in part, of the limitations set by Prop 2 1/2. The committee report does not, however, discuss the possibility of asking voters to override Prop. 2 1/2 to help schools.

As net state aid is declining and Boston generates nearly one-fifth of state tax revenues (2014), we should advocate that Boston is given more flexibility to modify its revenue structure.

And while they're at it, the legislature should change teacher tenure laws so local principals would have more flexibility in hiring teachers - and in not having to pay teachers who don't get chosen for a teaching slot.

Reduce overhead. Both in central administration and for special-needs programs.

Members of the Long Term Financial Planning Process committee included BPS and city administrators, Boston Teachers Union President Richard Stutman, two BPS parents, Boston Municipal Research Bureau President Sam Tyler and Charlestown High School Headmaster Will Thomas.

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Man charged with stomping his own dog at North Station

UPDATE: Bail set at $5,000, but he won't be going anywhere because a Boston Municipal Court judge revoked his bail on an unrelated Malden case, per the Suffolk County DA's office. Should he get out, he has to stay away from Sarah, currently limping but in stable condition at Angell.

Transit Police report arresting a man they say repeatedly punched and choked an 11-month-old Husky around 9:30 p.m. yesterday at North Station.

Upon arrival officers were met by witnesses who informed the officers of the following; a male, later identified as John Bowen, 46, of Boston, was striking his dog with a closed fist, kneeling on the dog in a forceful manner and lifting the dog off the ground by it's leash.

Police say officers arrested Bowen, 46, on charges of cruelty to animals and was hauled down to Transit Police headquarters for booking. The Husky, named Sarah, is now under the care of the Boston animal-control center in Roslindale.

Innocent, etc.

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Whoopsie: Steve Murphy's not in his new cushy job quite yet

Paul Gannon is running for state senate somewhere well south of the Neponset, but, natch, he's having a fundraiser tonight in South Boston. And look at the notables planning to attend, specifically "Register of Deeds-elect Stephen J. Murphy."

Not yet - he still has to beat John Keith, Margherita Ciampa-Coyne and Joe Donnelly in the Nov. 8 election.

After our own Kaz spotted the announcement attached to a tweet, Gannon's campaign did take it down and replied:


Still, it was surprising to see that Murphy had time for such frivolities, given that he was unable to attend any candidate forums before the Democratic primary, which he barely won. Anybody want to lay odds on him showing up at the Chinatown Residents Association forum on Nov. 2 (6:30 p.m. at the Quincy School, 885 Washington St.)? The other three candidates have agreed to attend.

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A wad of cash, a slap in the face, a man shot in the head and the nightclub that's pissing off Allston residents and police

Boston Police report their investigation into a shooting outside the Garage club on Linden Street in Allston on Sept. 18 has been hampered by the fact that the victim, recovering from getting shot in the head, is refusing to cooperate with them.

At a Boston Licensing Board hearing this morning, officers from District D-14 and Allston/Brighton City Councilor Mark Ciommo said they and their constituents are getting fed up with a steady stream of problems at the Garage, part of the old Russian Benevolent Society complex that include rowdy customers and major parking issues on the blocks around the club

In fact, police told the board, D-14 officers had just finished writing out 50 parking tickets for Garage patrons that night when the man was shot around the corner on Pratt Street shortly after 10 p.m.

Curt Bletzer, attorney for the Garage, acknowledged a connection between the victim and the club: Not long before the shooting, club doormen had denied him access to the place, even after he flashed "a wad of cash" in an attempt to buy his way in. As he was arguing with the doormen, Bletzer said, a woman joined him and took him away - after she slapped him in the head. The two walked down Linden and turned onto Pratt, where doormen lost sight of him.

Moments later, he was shot.

"We don't know what happened on Pratt," Bletzer said. D-14 Sgt. Det. Jose Lozano said the victim is remaining tight lipped with police.

Bletzer said that following the shooting, the club has taken several steps, including firing the manager on duty that night and banning the promoter who had arranged that night's entertainment. He said club managers want to work with police to deal with overall issues and parking in particular.

Ciommo and police said the club will have plenty to talk about. Ciommo said just this year, police have answered 66 complaints related to 20 Linden St. and that the club has become "very stressful" for both police and nearby residents.

Police said the Garage is now the first thing residents bring up at every community meeting they attend - and said Sunday nights are the worst, especially for parking. They said firefighters responding to a three-alarm fire in June were hampered by Garage patrons parked in front of hydrants and in crosswalks.

Bletzer said he felt it unfair to blame the Garage for all of Linden Street's issues because the building also houses a daycare and because the street is a major shortcut for people leaving other Allston bars heading to the turnpike.

Lozano responded that the vast majority of the complaints are about the Garage specifically, not about the daycare or other bar goers passing through.

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