Guest Op-Ed: Take It from a BPS Mom: Receivership Is Not the Solution

By Tania Del Rio

The status quo is not working in our Boston Public Schools, but receivership is not the pathway to delivering a quality education for all of Boston’s children. I applaud Mayor Wu, Councilor Mejía, and BPS families for raising their voices against this top-down takeover. As a candidate for Boston City Council District 1 and a BPS mom, I oppose receivership alongside all the other brave voices calling for a different, more democratic plan of action.

BPS is a large and complex system. The students, staff, teachers, and families that I speak with share my concern that the turnover of leadership in BPS has had significant consequences in the classroom. It makes it challenging to create stable school cultures and come together to form a collective vision. Too many creative solutions are stifled in the chaos that naturally comes with leadership transitions. A state takeover would only add to that instability.

We must also center our next generation in this discussion and realize that our BPS student population has starkly different needs than students in the rest of the Commonwealth. 71% of students are low-income, 48% of our BPS students do not speak English as a first language, and 21.9% of students have disabilities, and all of these rates are significantly higher than state averages. The District is also suffering from historic disinvestment – especially when it comes to its crumbling facilities – and an outdated, inefficient, and inequitable transportation system. The City should welcome support from the Commonwealth in these specific aspects – both financial and technical – but instead, in the form of a comprehensive partnership.

The Commonwealth’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has not provided any evidence that it can produce improved results after a takeover, as we have seen in Southbridge, Holyoke, and Lawrence. These school districts remain the lowest-ranking in the state, with Southbridge identified as the worst-performing and Holyoke the second worst-performing, leaving no evidence that outcomes would be better for Boston. The newly-elected mayor in Lawrence is prepared to act on a community-wide call from parents and residents to “keep control of [their own] education.”

A state takeover would also mean that the City would need to entirely rework their contract with the Boston Teachers Union, whom the district has already been disregarding during their current negotiations. BPS representatives have canceled 57% of bargaining sessions in 2022, only offering “insulting low salary increases” on top of  “no proposals to improve learning conditions.”

This entire receivership situation seems like a further attempt to politicize the very real impacts that BPS’ shortcomings are having on teachers, students, and parents, pitting these groups against each other just to remove any agency they may have to make meaningful change in their school communities. Collaboration and support from the state would be much more impactful and allow Boston’s new Mayor and incoming Superintendent a fair shot at turning around the District.

Until the voices of the people who live firsthand with the chronic issues our school system faces are leading the conversation, we will continue to spin our wheels and see our students suffer. State receivership would be a step backward, granting the power to engineer outcomes for our students to people outside of Boston with the least experience in our systems. Considering the massive wave of newly elected, inclusive leadership in our City Council and mayoral office, as well as voters’ widespread support for a fully-elected School Committee, I challenge the idea that our pathway to success is through a top-down approach like receivership. Instead of placing accountability in the hands of the few and unelected, we should lead with collaboration. As a City Councilor, I will not shy away from school issues and convene conversations with those best equipped to solve our problems – our students, teachers, and parents – about how to move our most troubled schools forward. I will support an elected school committee and promote a community-driven process of hiring a new superintendent.

Our elected officials should be using the power of their offices to convene resources and bring attention to the issues that our communities inherently have the ability to solve. The individuals we choose to lead must be beholden to the people and the people alone. Mayor Wu was elected with a mandate to bring people-powered change to our public schools. We owe it to everyone in our city to give ourselves that opportunity.

Tania Del Rio is a BPS mom, Latina immigrant, East Boston resident, and proven leader in her community and our local government running for Boston City Council District 1 in the upcoming special election on May 3rd to represent East Boston, Charlestown, and the North End.

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