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BPS ’22 budget increases services

Federal funding to help with COVID relief

Morgan C. Mullings
Staff reporter covering state and local politics. Report for America Corps Member. VIEW BIO
BPS ’22 budget increases services
Brenda Cassellius PHOTO: John Wilcox, Mayor’s Office

Boston Public Schools unveiled its budget $1.3 billion Feb. 3 at a virtual press conference, and later that night at the Boston School Committee meeting.

BPS is banking on $36 million in new funding in the city’s Fiscal Year 2022 budget.

“This budget proposal represents our largest ever investment in our schools,” Superintendent Brenda Cassellius said during the School Committee meeting. “And it provides the needed wraparound services and supports for our children, such as… social workers for every school, among many other investments, and the entire budget is grounded in our principles of returning strong and recovering.”

In addition to funding from the city, the BPS budget proposal includes $123 million in federal funding allocated two years ago that schools can use through 2023, and previous city funding allotted through BuildBPS, the district’s $1 billion 10-year investment plan.

The budget’s three phases —Return, Recover and Reimagine — all focus on different aspects of the school experience.

Return is directed at continuing to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in schools. Federal funding will support millions of dollars in extra nursing support, bus monitors, online learning and engagement tools, improved school maintenance contracts, and more COVID-19 costs — all totaling $10.3 million.

Outside of the federal funding, $1.4 million will go toward additional daytime custodians as well.

The Recover portion is focused on closing the gaps that were highlighted during the pandemic. Nathan Kuder, chief financial officer for BPS, said that BPS is aware of the disproportionate effects that the pandemic has on students of color, low-income families and English-language learners.

“In order to help them recover from this disruption to their lives and to their education, we must prepare a multi-year plan to support students in three critical areas,” Kuder said. Those three areas are academic support, health and wellness support and community support.

“It’s worth echoing and emphasizing that over the last two years, we’ve added 142 social workers, including 95 new social workers in the budget this year, and have added 117 family liaisons, including 80.5 new positions [for] multilingual family support.” he said.

This FY22 budget dedicates $10 million to elementary school social workers and secondary school academic counseling, and $6.8 million for multilingual family liaisons. Federal funding will support five other investments, including tutoring and summer and vacation programming.

The Reimagine section of the plan is about reimagining the work ahead — including diving into anti-racist work in the wake of 2020’s nationwide racial reckoning and providing equitable options for highest-need students.

The budget has received minimal feedback so far in its beginning stages, and three budget hearings are scheduled for Feb. 11, March 9, and March 17, before the vote on March 24.

During last week’s School Committee meeting, Ruby Reyes of the Boston Education and Justice Alliance gave her thoughts on the city’s contribution to the budget.

“Each year, you present a budget based on what we have been given by the mayor, rather than [addressing] what our school communities actually need and preparing a budget proposal that provides a quality education for each student,” she said.

“As we begin Black History Month,” she continued, “BEJA wants you to recommit to addressing equity across the district, not just in your words, but in your actions, and not just for those with the most privilege.”