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Friday, January 08, 2021

Statement on Mayoral Transition and Overwhelming Public Support for Elected School Committee

 

Statement on Mayoral Transition and Overwhelming Public Support for Elected School Committee 

The Boston Coalition for Education Equity (BCEE) believes the appointment of Marty Walsh as Labor Secretary presents a timely opportunity to promote equity and accountability to the Boston Public Schools through the restoration of an elected School Committee. We call on the City Council and on Council President Kim Janey, who will take over as acting mayor, to start the process by affirming their support for an elected School Committee and beginning public discussions on the board’s new formulation. Boston is the only municipality in the Commonwealth without an elected school committee; recent events have proven that this governance structure has failed and must be immediately reformed.

A recent poll conducted by Poll Progressive indicated that 60% of eligible voters would support the reinstatement of an elected school board, with just 14% expressing opposition (the remaining respondents had no opinion or were neutral). The voters cited the appointed board’s lack of responsiveness to the parents and students whose interests it is supposed to represent. In recent years the school committee has made several decisions that went against the wishes of BPS families, including the expropriation of the McCormack Middle School’s athletic fields, the closure of both the Mattahunt Elementary and the West Roxbury Educational Complex, and instituting drastic changes in start times at schools throughout BPS (this decision was later rescinded after unprecedented levels of pushback). 

In 2019, the Boston Herald analyzed a year’s worth of School Committee votes and found that the committee approved all 111 action items put before them, with just four abstentions and no votes against. Then-Chairman Michael Loconto refused to comment on the body’s voting record and told a Herald reporter not to reach out to other committee members. In 2016, School Committee member Regina Robinson was the only member not to vote in favor of closing the Mattahunt Elementary School. She was also the lone member not to vote to close the West Roxbury Education Complex in 2018. Less than two weeks after her second abstention of her four-year term, Mayor Marty Walsh announced that he would replace Robinson with Quoc Tran, a state official and civil rights lawyer. 

These are just a few examples of how a mayorally appointed school committee is responsive directly to the mayor, and through the mayor to the power elite of the city, rather than to the students, families, and educators it is intended to represent. BCEE finds the School Committee’s performance particularly galling in a system made up of more than 80% students of color, reinforcing structural racism. 

Returning to an elected school committee is a necessary and critical action Boston must take toward dismantling this undemocratic and racist power structure. A majority of Boston City Councilors support electing at least some of the School Committee members, as seen in BCEE’s 2019 City Council Candidate Questionnaire. (https://www.bosedequity.org/city-council-questionnaire-responses). The Coalition will be releasing a new questionnaire later this year for the 2021 election cycle.

In the recent Poll Progressive poll, support for an elected school committee was consistent across demographic groups, including age, gender, education level, and racial identity. For a full breakdown of the poll results, visit Poll Progressive’s website at https://www.pollprogressive.com/

The Boston Coalition for Education Equity is a collaboration among civil rights, education, and community organizations from across Boston that are committed to dismantling education inequity.

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