Boston Students Continue Fight for Educational Equity

Photo: Bay State Banner

Boston students made a last-ditch appeal to the City Council earlier this month for adequate funding of their schools.

“I started out this year with 30-plus students in some of my classes. How are students expected to learn when there aren’t even enough desks for them to sit at?” asked LaFaith Delice a student from Snowden International High School.”

Just five councilors attended the hearing before the Ways and Means Committee: Mark Ciommo, Tito Jackson, Anniba Essaibi George, Ayanna Presley, and Frank Baker, who walked out after a student called the councilors “puppets.”

The students were asking the council to reject Mayor Marty Walsh’s budget, which includes cuts to 49 schools.

Abigail Bowers, a student at Boston Latin Academy, said the schools hit hardest are those whose students are mostly youth of color, not schools with more white students like the Latins. Even so, she said, “BLA doesn’t even have pencils in its art classes.”

DeRoss Jordan, a BPS graduate, said he attended a charter school and a district school before trying Dorchester Academy, where he finally felt the teachers cared about him. “The teachers took the time to find the best ways for me to learn. I had one teacher named Brian Rothbaum [who] took time every day after school to teach with me. He put me on the debate team, he put me on a sports team, he made sure that I was well-rounded and educated.

“Our school closed down… We need more funding and more opportunities for teachers like him to be present in the school.”

Kathleen Alvarez of Snowden International High School asked the councilors, “Are you guys sitting at a broken desk? Are you the ones reading textbooks from 1999? …Are you the ones with teachers who are leaving the classrooms because they are going to get fired soon?”

Chris Garcia, who just graduated from Snowden, summed up the problems well: “Instead of building the voices of youth, we cut budgets and close schools while ignoring the voices of those in desperate need… If this budget passes students basic human right to access a free and equal education will be at risk.”

Phoenix Printemps a youth worker with the Boston Youth Organizing Project, noted that 11 policemen were in the hallway, far outnumbering the councilors. “School to prison pipeline – it’s right outside,” she said. “You want to know how those high schools feel with police down their back, it’s right outside. Will he look at you the way he looked at me when I walked in here?”

A video of the budget hearing is here. For a more extensive summary of what the students said, and where to find each student in the video, see Monty Neill’s log. Neill, a CPS board member and Executive Director of FairTest, also spoke at the hearing.