Statement on Boston Public Schools Start Times to Boston School Committee


January 10, 2018

Dear Chairman Loconto and members of the Boston School Committee:

Citizens for Public Schools supports the thousands of Boston parents who refused to accept the top-down mandate of drastically changed school start times.

The changes were ordered with no student involvement and after parents had been asked only for their general opinions on desirable school schedules. The actual changes under consideration were never revealed to parents during 18 months of supposed community engagement.

After many hours of testimony at a School Committee meeting, 8,500 signatures on a petition, and a series of community meetings at which parents, teachers, and students from across the city spoke out against the plan, School Superintendent Tommy Chang finally agreed to a one-year moratorium.

Though there was support for making high school start times later, opposition to the plan for elementary students was massive. And there was an apparent consensus that the process itself was fatally flawed, resulting in a plan that did not meet the needs of families.

We hope the School Department will now move forward with genuine participation of those affected. As Andrea Atkinson, co-chair of the Hernandez School Parent Council, told the School Committee, “In an equitable process, the people that are most affected are the ones that are the decision-makers.”

While many parents approved of the later hours for high schools, the students themselves were not asked. When the St. Stephen’s youth program surveyed three dozen BPS students, they found unanimous opposition. Especially for youth from families with working parents and low incomes, the later dismissal could prevent students from picking up younger siblings or getting to jobs they need to help support their families. A new attempt at reorganizing school schedules should include serious discussions with BPS high school students.

Supt. Chang defended the new schedule as more equitable because the existing schedules put a disproportionate number of white students in the most desirable times, but the Boston NAACP and the Lawyers Committee on Civil rights pointed out that his plan moved two thirds of Black and Latino elementary school students into schedules that are extremely difficult for families to manage. They impose extra hardships on parents who have inflexible work hours and can’t afford before- or after-school care for their children. The fact that more white students were given bad schedules did not make the plan better for students of color.

City Council President Michelle Wu was right when she asked the School Department to publicly lay out the options that were considered and the costs of each, instead of simply announcing new times and declaring that they are the best.

And John F. Kennedy School parent Krista Magnuson was right when she told the School Committee, “Stop trying to cut the BPS budget. Start growing it instead. Demand more money. Add libraries, computers, music programs, and resources. Provide excellent and often expensive services that our ELL and special needs students require. Make our schools the best in the state.”

Magnuson said, instead of cutting transportation costs, “the way forward is to integrate our neighborhoods and make every school in BPS excellent,” she said.

We agree.

Boston’s economy is booming. Massachusetts is a wealthy state. There is enough money to fully fund the education of young Bostonians.


Lisa A. Guisbond, Executive Director

Citizens for Public Schools