The Globe reports on the mayor's BPS capital plan, released today.
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They should build one big school for all the students and house pairs of students in small rooms. Put TVs in the rooms that go over MCAS practice questions over and over. Meals and recess are provided.
BPS doesn't have universal recess and the food is sometimes years past fresh date.
Yet somehow is super expensive.
So this plan is par for the course.
To the unions.
..until BPS can...
1. easily remove apathetic, lazy teachers from the system
2. give raises and promotions based on merit
...nothing will change.
Sure, there are some issues with teachers here and there but the vast majority of BPS teachers I've ever encountered are not apathetic or lazy. That's not the core problem. The core challenge is that there are tons of kids in the system who need a complete social support system, not just some 'Stand and Deliver' scenario from 8:20 to 2:20 everyday. Why are we asking BPS to solve social problem as a benchmark?
As for the facilities, I don't think any of the Rosi K-5 schools have drinking water due to concern about lead pipes. They don't have gyms or art or science rooms. It's not the primary reason why parents bail out to the suburbs, but it doesn't help.
BPS is a lot like the MBTA - in need of reform AND more money, both.
I was a union teacher. I hate the lease lazy ones MORE than you because 1) they make good techers' lives harder 2) they make us all look bad and 3) admins from principals to superintendents and everyone between get shuffled around at six figures despite multiple failures and piss-poor management but good teachers got pink slips every summer until we hit tenure.
Good admins document and fire bad employees like every competent manager ever. I've done it. Yes, you have to dot your i's and cross your t's, but if you document, you can do it and that's your damn job.
1. It is very easy to fire apathetic teachers ever since the state changed the evaluation law in 2010. All the principal has to do is give them a underperforming evaluation score and then they literally can't work in Boston anymore. It's really not that hard and it happens more often then you think.
2. How would you give raises and promotions based on merit? It's not like Wall Street where the broker who brings in the most cash gets a raise/bonus or a law firm where the lawyer who wins the most cases becomes a partner. How would you decide "merit" in teaching? It's a lot more complicated than you think.
How about we revise tax laws and force the colleges/universities to pay taxes, and use that money to fund public education in Boston? Think about it: people love to say "Athens of America" because of all the higher education but our public schools are a joke. This doesn't make any sense. Yet for decades these schools with billion dollar endowments have gotten good deals at the expense of everyone else and act like we owe them for being in Boston. They import hundreds of thousands of idiots who trash the city and have basically turned affordable neighborhoods into overpriced student slums. Almost all of the institutions never pay the recommended amount for city services. They have consistently done nothing but land grab for their own selfish purposes. Boston is not rich in land so how this has been allowed is baffling. It's time we stop bowing down to the likes of Harvard and BU and make them pay for the privileges they're afforded for the benefit of city residents.
But the colleges located in Boston are some of the largest property owners.
If we tax them they won't leave, they're to rooted in Boston and their location is half of the atraction for potential students.
Here is why you are wrong:
1. The Universities (most of them) already pay a lot to the city in PILOT programs. Big corporations often pay *less* due to creative use of loopholes and special deductions.
2. The school are the backbone of Boston's economy. Period. They are the reason why high tech has come to Boston. They are the reason why the best hospitals are located here. The Universities have an enormous economic impact on the region like almost nothing else so don't be quick to want them to leave. Without the schools Boston would be some struggling ex-industrial town the likes of Rochester.
3. The schools require almost no cities services. They all have their own police departments and remove their own trash. College kids aren't sending kids to BPS or needing social services.
4. The schools pay good wages and employee a ton of people. In contrast, Dunkin' Donuts pays it's employees so little that many qualify for public benefits and offers no benefits. But they pay taxes so they are better, right?
1) Pilot guidelines suggest that the non-profit pay 25% of what they would otherwise pay if they were a taxable entity. Some pay zero. I believe none pay the 25%. Collectively they pay a fraction of the 25% that we "suggest" they pay. There are ZERO creative loopholes and special deductions for property taxes for corporations. There are a handful of (sweetheart) deals that help a few well connected corporations that are egregious violations of the spirit of the laws - but that has nothing to do with creative use of tax laws. It has to do with politicians getting taken care of by their friends.
2) Yes the schools are a huge strength of the region - or at least have been. Higher ed - like every other industry is ripe for disruption - especially with the extortionary rates of tuition these days. IF a local school participates in that disruption - it could well be at the expense of most of the other institutions. My guess is 20-30 years from now, the college experience is infinitely cheaper, less personalized/hands on and at least half or more "off site". Every other business is going in this direction - and if anything higher ed is more vulnerable to online threats. The only value added a Harvard, for example, has over an online class is the networking and interaction of the students - which is being marginalized across most other businesses - not sure the schools will play the role they have in coming decades.
3) I have a feeling that if you talked to some department heads at BPD. BFD, inspectional services, DPW and many other areas, they would beg to seriously differ with you. One assessor told me he used to go to the colleges that paid no pilot when they wanted to build a new building with a printout of all the police, fire and inspectional calls made to the school and "suggest" that if they want the variances and construction permits they needed, it might be wise to start paying a little more PILOT.
4) Not much argument - but let's be real - if Dunkies paid a fraction of what the city paid with bennies - your coffee would cost about triple what it costs so you wouldn't buy it and Dunkies would be out of biz making all these people completely unemployed and Boston completely decaffeinated - which might not be so bad!
On point number 3, you may notice the area students driving cars, taking the T, walking around the town, yes, spending money, but in general doing everything that everyone else does -- as in using the infrastructure and services we provide to everyone (many of whom pay property taxes and other taxes which support these services). The idea that University students and the Universities themselves require no city services is a bit extreme. Typically they don't make use of the most expensive service of the city -- BPS -- but otherwise they're part of the city.
And as far as PILOT payments, make sure you break the numbers down by actual cash payments to the city versus "in kind" accounting of sending school of ed. students to a BPS location on a learning practicum and then counting a dollar value of that to your PILOT account. I think BU actually pays their full PILOT amount regularly - which makes sense since they are actually a real estate firm.
The students use about the same amount of services as most tourists which is what they largely are. The big schools (BU, Harvard, MIT, NE, etc) have their own police departments which saves the city a lot. They remove their own trash and plow their own roads. The students aren't sending children to BPS, using neighborhood parks, needing public benefits, etc. Their buildings are generally kept up to code and the campuses safe. They pay full fare when riding the T. Most schools even run their own private shuttle services which take kids off the T and cars off the road. The schools pay good wages (mostly) and a major source of good middle class jobs. (All generalizations but the "bad apples" represent a very small portion of the total number of students.)
I agree that schools should be held more accountable when they miss PILOT payments but this can be done in the form of rejecting building permits and similar. It's stupid to say "Tax them in full!" as it's not something the city has control over and it misses all the things the schools do for the city that almost all other businesses do not.
BU plows Comm Ave? Those young people tossing frisbees in the Common aren't Emerson, Suffolk, whatever students? College students don't get arrested by or call for BPD? Allston-Brighton ISN'T overrun by BU/C students? Boston higher ed students are just like tourists, if tourists decided to visit the city for nine months and use lots of services.
I agree that Universities are crucial to not only the city's economy but to that of the region as well. I also don't think they should necessarily lose their tax-free, non-profit status, but to pretend that students use no services and are completely provided for by their universities is so wrong, it's kind of silly.
The deck chairs on this tub are in dire need of rearranging.
Chuck Yancey school for kids who can't read good coming right up
School kids & $,$$$,$$$,$$$
Maybe the students (and not the schools) should be viewed as the capital expenditure that REALLY matters. Let the expenditures to the facilities stumble along at some low level, and let the big bucks be spent on fixing and improving schools.
This is the absolute core of the problem. A country that takes education extremely seriously would have lower crime rates, fewer prisoners, lower drug use, be more productive, less violent, and, after a few generations, be, overall, much happier.
Spending on public education has gone up exponentially since the 1970s and yet the product and facility maintenance has been getting increasingly abysmal. Why is that?
Taxing universities would do nothing but increase the already burdensome levy of student loans on college students.
There's plenty of money in public education. How efficiently it is managed is a MAJOR problem which no one wants or can figure out how to address effectively.
It's about time that the structural problems of the BPS were addressed. Many of the schools were built by the WPA in the 1930's and are highly outmoded and wasteful. I suggest a long term plan be devised that replaces every school built before 1980. Kids do need a decent environment to learn in but the Facilities Dept. at BPS needs a complete overhaul and new mindset. The longterm savings with new schools just on energy savings will pay for the City's share of the cost. Marty--NEVER listen to the critics just keep moving forward for the GOOD of ALL. Thank You!
PS-Building the new schools where the kids are will save millions on bussing--Build them in every neighborhood and the kids will come back to the city.
1) "The first comprehensive capital plan for BPS in 20 years"? Wow - talk about speaking ill of the dead without uttering their name. My guess is Marty starts every day with some memo or another about something that hasn't been upgraded in 20 years with a similar thought. It's what happens when you lack "that vision thing" and basically patch the city with duct tape and spit for two decades just enough so that nobody notices.
2) This would only come as a surprise to Rip Van Winkle. BPS has lost almost 10,000 students in the last fifteen years. About 11,000 when you back out the 1500 Pre-k seats they've added - which is really public day care - not school (and a program I support for our neediest kids). Yet we've cut only maybe half a dozen schools when we probably should have closed/merged close to 20. That number may increase if we continue to expand charter offerings.
This is going to be a painful process for parents - but as Tommy Chang said - that will allow us to focus resources on improving facilities for all and will be good for BPS in the long term. Overdue and hats off to the mayor and the new superintendent for taking on what is bound to be many unpopular decisions with thousands of parents.
They should offer pre-K starting at 1-2 years old, honestly. So much of the failure of BPS students is set in stone years before they even enter the doors of a school, and then we blame the system for not fixing kids when they're already YEARS behind where they should be. Offering public daycare would cost a pretty penny but 5 years later end up saving BPS thousands in ELL, SPED, behavioral management, etc....
If you pump in turn-around money and drill the kids like mad you might create one of those souffle success stories like Orchard Gardens a few years ago, but reality always catches up with you. Urban education is incredibly difficult because so many of the kids come from houses that aren't that different from the home where little Bella died.
It is much less expensive to tear schools down and rebuild them than to renovate them. So develop a plan to pair up schools with other municipal builders that be used as schools while they tear down and rebuilt. And maybe you sell of a few of the extremely valuable school lots and use that money to pay for renovations of others.
There are more schools than needed now. Close the first one, squish the students in elsewhere, tear it down and rebuild. When the school is done, move students in and tear down two other schools.
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