On Monday, March 7, more than 2000 students of the Boston Public School system abandoned classes and marched through downtown Boston in order to demonstrate their staunch opposition to proposed budget cuts, brandishing signs that asked “What about our future?”
As of currently, the city’s public schools face a deficit due to rising expenses and a sharp decline in state and federal aid. The exact amount of the deficit, however, is yet to be determined. The initial budget shortfall was slated at $50 million, though the mayor’s office has issued an official statement that asserts that the total figure will be lower when the school committee votes on the final budget later in March.
The populist demand for the elimination of stratagems to sideline key educational programs to compensate for rising expenses has reverberated throughout the ranks — distressed students, in both primary and secondary schools, have been vociferous in their concerns.
Daphne Partridge, a sixth grader at Boston Teachers Union School, asserted the following of the congregation of protestors and the budget: “At our school we’re worried about language programs being taken away, but now that we’re here we see the ways all the other schools are affected,” she said. “It’s crazy how many kids are here. But it makes me feel like I have a voice.”
The students marched through downtown Boston after walking out of class to protest planned budget cuts, chanting “What do we want? Education!,” as onlookers walking down Newbury Street took notice and joined the protesting students.
Students made their way in throngs toward Boston Common, the State House, and Faneuil Hall, on foot and by bus, irrespective of warnings from the school district that they would be marked absent if they left class.
The organizers of the assembly posted a letter on Twitter preliminary to the walkout stating that budget cuts next year seek to prohibit students from learning “at full capacity” and “make it impossible to get into the college of your dreams.”
The walkout was heavily promoted by the Boston Youth Organizing Project and the Boston Education Justice Alliance. Moreover, a national organization, the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, stated that the Boston protest was part of a nationwide series of actions combatting cuts to local school district budgets in an attempt to champion increased educational resources and opportunities for all students.
This event is not the first public demonstration to voice opposition against the budget cuts — during the vacation week in February, several hundred parents, teachers, and students held a rally in downtown Boston. Moreover, many parents found it prudent to protest outside of Mayor Marty Walsh’s “State of the City” address in January.
Some students at the rally chastised Mayor Walsh for not providing schools with more funding — Walsh, in rebuttal, defended the district budget process in a phone interview Monday afternoon, saying it was still in flux and that an early estimate postulating that the deficit could be as high as $50 million was grossly overstated. He replied that the actual shortfall is much closer to $30 million.
Walsh further stipulated that the School Department must look closely at expenses in the central office, school administrations, transportation, and food services to find savings it can pass along to classrooms. Some adults, he asserted, “have given false information to students,” and he questioned whether outside groups had influenced the protest.
City Councilor Tito Jackson marched with the students, and encouraged them to walk inside the State House to disseminate their opinions.
“I’m so encouraged by the massive turnout and voices of our young people,” Jackson stated. “They should be holding lawmakers accountable. They should demand that they have enough teachers who will encourage them to stay in their classrooms. They shouldn’t lose their JV programs, which keep some kids involved and are a lifeline for them. And they shouldn’t lose funding to charter schools.”
Some students were given the opportunity to testify against the Joint Committee on Education regarding funding — about two dozen students, contrarily, remained in front of Faneuil Hall, including Nathan Metz-Lerman, a junior at Boston Latin Academy. “We have to continue fighting,” he said into a megaphone. “We’re not just going to let our education be destroyed.”
The School Committee is predicted to approve a new and comprehensive budget by March 23.