District by district, the rough and tumble economy is smothering public education. Observers worry that the gains made by the billions of dollars pumped into schools with the advent of Education Reform will crumble. In Boston, the economy’s grip is severe. The superintendent has slashed his budget by $81 million. It comes at the expense of five school closings, an anticipated 1400-person lay-off and district-wide worry.
Early on in this year’s fiscal forecast, Governor Mitt Romney said that education would be the state budget’s sacred cow, promising in his State of the State address, “we’ll invest in education, holding harmless our school spending.” But according to Boston Mayor Tom Menino, that’s not how it’s worked out. Menino says there’s been no increase in education funding and there have been cuts in additional assistance.
Now, reality is biting at the Boston Public Schools. Faced with $81 million in budget cuts next fiscal year, the Boston schools will have to increase class sizes, close five elementary and middle schools and lay off about 1400 staff including 600 teachers. At the Timilty Middle School in Roxbury, principal Valeria Lowe-Barehmi is facing a 28% budget cut next year and the loss of her core service—the school’s 17-year-old signature extended day program, Project Promise.
To save her program, Lowe-Barehmi is hitting the pavement. It’s no longer enough to wait for funding that may or may not be in the city pipeline. Consequently, the Timilty is soliciting philanthropists, grant programs, even posting a Save Our School website. “Should we have to do this?” Lowe-Barehmi asks. “No,” she answers herself, “we should not have to do this.”