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Parents rally against BPS cuts

Boston residents vented their frustrations about the economically depressed status of their schools Thursday at the Massachusetts State House, demanding what they said was a ‘fair share’ of federal stimulus money to prop up ailing budgets.

Thursday’s rally, which drew about 200 attendees, heard from Boston Public School parents, City Councilors and Mayor Thomas M. Menino, all of whom urged Gov. Deval Patrick to ‘do the right thing.’

Last Wednesday, the Boston School Committee unanimously approved an $812 million budget for the 2009-10 school year, a 2.5 percent cut from the current year, according to a March 24 BPS press release that detailed the budget before it was voted on. The cuts will include the loss of 500 school jobs, 200 of which will be teaching positions.

Although unhappy about the need-heavy budget cuts, BPS Superintendent Dr. Carol Johnson said she was optimistic that Boston would continue to provide quality public education for its students.

‘Here in Boston and across the country, these incredibly challenging economic times require us to make difficult decisions with the limited resources available,’ Johnson said. ‘But they also provide a valuable opportunity to take a hard look at how we provide services and to consider new or more efficient ways to operate.’

However, public outrage has resulted because Boston has not received a share of the federal stimulus funding. According to a March 26 City of Boston press release, Massachusetts received about $815 million from the federal economic stimulus package dedicated to education, but Patrick has not allocated any to the BPS system as of March 26, despite BPS’s status as the largest school district in the state.

BPS School Committee Chairman Rev. Gregory Groover said not allocating Boston any stimulus funding is a blow to the city’s reputation.

‘There is no way that $900 million can come to Massachusetts and Boston, the birthplace of public education, doesn’t get its fair share,’ Groover said.

Constantine von Hoffman, spokesman for BPS parents, voiced his frustration with Boston’s disproportionate aid number.

‘I want to know why Boston hasn’t gotten any stimulus money,’ he said. ‘They’re basing the decision on numbers, and these other school districts in the suburbs are getting this money, and they’re not hurting.’

BPS parent Rita Riordan said the real victim of the budget cuts may be students’ morale.

‘These kids are old enough to understand what’s going on, and they’re old enough to understand the reputation of their schools,’ she said. ‘They’re not just cutting jobs now. They’re wringing these kids emotionally.’

Menino said in an interview with The Daily Free Press after the rally’ that he was cautiously optimistic about the rally’s effectiveness in the short-term.

‘I think that we’re going to send a message to Gov. Patrick that the Boston parents will not stand for this, and that we need this money,’ Menino said.

City Council President Mike Ross (Back Bay, Fenway, Kenmore) praised the rally, saying education is essential to keeping Boston’s economy strong.

‘What is essential for this city’s future is providing a world-class education to our children,’ he said. ‘It is by’ far the best stimulus we know.’

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