Former Council President Blasts Mayor on Education Initiatives

One of the cornerstones of Mayor Martin Walsh’s State of the City speech on Tuesday night was his new, historic commitment to public education in the city, but former Council President Andrea Campbell isn’t buying the pitch.

The mayor announced a $100 million investment in new direct funding to support students at the Boston Public Schools Tuesday night. He said the funding will be phased in over the next three years to reach an annual investment of $100 million for direct classroom funding – monies that will be over and above the typical cost increases in the budget. The mayor said this level of planned new investment has never been seen before in Boston’s history, and will reach every public school in Boston.

“We believe in a Boston where every single student has access to high quality schools to reach their full potential, and this $100 million investment will make that vision a reality,” said Mayor Walsh in his address. “This new investment will be carefully targeted to evidence-based strategies so that every dollar makes a difference. We’ll begin with intense support for underperforming schools because kids who start with less need more and deserve more. By lifting up our schools, we’ll become one strong district and one stronger city.”

However, about one hour after the speech, Councilor Campbell – who represents Dorchester and Mattapan and was the only councilor not to attend the State of the City – issued a statement outlining her opposition to his new policy.

“The Mayor’s announcement falls into a disturbing pattern of flashy announcements that feature big dollar figures, but never change the dynamic for children and families,” she wrote. “The reality for children and families attending BPS is that roughly 80 percent of students in downtown Boston attend high-quality schools, compared with only 5 percent of students in Mattapan. Nearly 4 out of 10 non-exam school students will not graduate from high school, and of those who do graduate, two out of three will not finish college within six years. Even if we can agree that not every child should go to college, Madison Park, BPS’s only vocational technical high school has been the lowest performing high school in Massachusetts for six years.”

Walsh’s plan would invest the money over three years in student wellness and mental health supports, curriculum enrichment, and programming and activities. He said in his speech that 100 percent of that money would go directly to students or services provided by schools.

It was supported by Supt. Brenda Cassellius, the School Committee, and Boston Teacher’s Union President Jessica Tang.

However, it collides with a policy submitted by Campbell last June when she was still Council President, a policy called ‘Action for Boston Children.’ Campbell’s statement Tuesday night said it was a plan that looked to fix the inequity of the schools throughout Boston.

“I would not be skeptical if the Administration acted on these recommendations,” she wrote.

Campbell criticized Walsh for having big announcements about education that don’t produce results.

She said Universal Pre-K, which was announced last year at a cost of $15 million, has only created 29 new BPS Pre-K seats since 2016. She also cited BuildBPS, which was a $1 billion announcement three years ago. She said half of that money has been spent, and not a single shovel is in the ground for a new building.

“Beyond these flashy announcements, there is a real problem: a lack of vision and plan,” she wrote.

Walsh’s announcement is in support of the strategic vision plan that Supt. Brenda Casselius has filed in draft form with the School Committee. The final draft will be presented on Jan. 15.

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