Place oversight of Boston’s schools squarely with the mayor

On November 15th, BPS parents and teachers representing nine education groups rallied in front of Boston City Hall to demand that Mayor Michelle Wu take immediate action to improve the city’s public schools.

On November 15th, parents and teachers from nine different BPS-related organizations rallied in front of Boston City Hall to demand that Mayor Michelle Wu do something about the dire situation in BPS.

Voters would have the transparency they desire if BPS were treated like any other city department.
As a former member of the Boston School Committee, I agree with my friend and fellow ex-committee member Meg Campbell, as well as the editorial board of the Boston Globe, that the mayor of Boston needs to shoulder the burden of fixing the city’s failing public school system. Throw it away” December 11).

According to an article published in February by Campbell and Bill Walczak of the Dorchester Reporter, the nonbinding ballot question of 2021 presented a false choice by not providing enough information about the potential benefits and costs of returning to an elected School Committee. Suppose the city’s schools continue to lose students. Would parents be willing to foot the bill for the City Council, which has a yearly budget of more than $6 million, without assurances that the situation would improve?

In cities across the Commonwealth, mayors have been known to exert significant influence over local educational institutions. Voters in Boston would be satisfied with the level of accountability they receive if the city’s public schools were managed in the same way as any other division under Mayor Michelle Wu’s purview. Now that BPS is in trouble, Wu needs to take responsibility.

The author currently serves as Democrats for Education Reform’s state director. There needs to be coordination between the various child-focused organizations in Boston.
I wholeheartedly support making the schools a city department as a lifelong city resident, parent of a child in the Boston Public Schools, and 20-year leader of an organization that collaborated closely with the city’s schools. The school’s $1.3 billion share of the budget is the largest, and they need to be better integrated with other child-serving city departments due to its autonomous governance.

While classroom interactions between students, teachers, and material are the most critical determinant of students’ academic growth, it is also clear that students’ experiences outside of school have a significant impact. Housing, children and families, health and human services, community services, police, and even planning and development are just some of the city departments that have a vested interest in the education and well-being of the city’s youth, and they all need to work together effectively. Unfortunately, as of right now, they don’t.

Despite BPS’s apparent history of poor governance, the schools made significant gains under the first superintendent chosen by an appointed board, Thomas Payzant. They ultimately won the Broad Foundation prize in 2006 for the best urban district in the country. It is evident that the mayor, not some middle bureaucrat, should be responsible for accountability and coordination.


This author formerly served as the organization’s executive director for the Boston Plan for Excellence. She only speaks for herself; the organization does not share her views.

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