BOSTON – Boston Public Schools (BPS) Superintendent John McDonough has presented a balanced budget recommendation to the Boston School Committee for the 2015 fiscal year. The recommendation made tonight builds on the Superintendent’s proposed budget, which was presented on February 5 and is posted to the web at bostonpublicschools.org/budget.
Mayor Martin J. Walsh has increased the FY15 budget allocation for schools by about $36 million, or 3.8 percent. Among the highlights in the proposed $973.3 million budget for the next school year:
- A $1 million expansion of the BPS early education (K1) program by 100 seats, which studies have shown is among the most effective in the nation at closing achievement gaps.
- $5 million increase in the funding schools control through weighted student funding.
- $3.8 million for digital tools for students and teachers, plus technology upgrades and parent access to the online Student Information System.
- $400,000 to support the BPS Teacher Diversity Action Plan.
- $6.6 million for extended learning time and Acceleration Academies
At the beginning of this year’s process BPS faced a budget challenge of more than $100 million for the next fiscal year due to declining state and federal resources for the Boston Public Schools, increased costs and the need to make new investments in school quality initiatives, such as expansions of K-8 and dual language programs, extended school days and early education.
The proposed budget adds $5 million to total weighted student funding school allocations, which are resources that schools control to set staffing and academic priorities. Just over half of the schools are nevertheless experiencing reductions in funding, while just under half will experience an increase. This is largely driven by corrections to enrollment projections, because projected enrollment was higher than actual enrollment this year in just over half of our schools.
In addition, BPS is proposing central office reorganizations and consolidations that will save the district more than $39 million. This is expected to result in a reduction of between 110 and 125 positions next year, out of approximately 800 non-school-based centrally-funded positions today.
“Our most important task as educators is to provide each and every student with an education that will give them the opportunity to success in college and career, and that is what we have focused on in constructing next year’s budget,” McDonough said. “Resolving this challenge is about much more than balancing the budget. It is about rethinking our entire approach to service and support for schools so we can align ourselves in a way that is smarter, sharper, more effective and much more coherent. This is an opportunity to make the Boston Public Schools stronger.”
To balance the budget and improve overall service to schools, BPS is proposing strategic realignments and estimated cost savings that include:
Realigning central office and centrally-funded services ($39.3 million): We will make strategic realignments to control costs in many central departments, most significantly in Human Capital, Academics, Student Support Services and non-direct special education services and engagement. We believe these adjustments will allow us to continue to serve students and families well while managing costs more efficiently.
Adjustments to enrollment projections ($11 million): We have corrected over-projections from FY14 so that FY15 projections are based on actual enrollment trends.
Transportation ($11 million): In addition to our continued efforts to better align school start times, we propose to expand the MBTA pass program to more 7th and 8th grade students. This is already the case for nearly two thousand students in nine BPS schools and five charter schools served by BPS transportation. Today, 1,862 7th and 8th grade students receive MBTA passes, and our proposal would expand this program to an additional 4,586 students in the next school year. Yellow bus door-to-door service would continue for all students who receive this as part of a special education plan. In addition, BPS will allow some 6th grade students to access MBTA passes instead of yellow bus service, as a voluntary 6th grade MBTA pilot program that schools can choose to participate in next year. BPS also proposes to reduce “shuttle” bus service to high schools that are less than one mile from an MBTA subway hub and will ask schools to directly budget for a-la-carte optional services.
Decrease in health insurance premiums ($5 million): The City’s efforts to control health insurance costs have allowed us to decrease our expected payments for health insurance from about $95 million to $90 million with no change in benefits to staff.
Grant change ($4 million): Strategic reductions in grant-funded services that are not supported through BPS general revenue.
Shift adult education to grant resources ($1.1 million): BPS offers some adult education programs that were designed to support people who are not BPS students, such as GED support. Similar services are often provided by external community-based organizations, and BPS proposes to shift our program to become fully grant-supported.
BPS has posted school-by-school budget information, department program codes and other details at www.bostonpublicschools.org/budget. The public is invited to visit a budget hearing to learn more and offer suggestions and feedback. The public can also send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or use the hashtag #BPSbudget on Twitter. The School Committee is expected to vote on the FY15 budget on March 26.
School Committee budget hearing schedule
- Tuesday, March 4: 6pm, Hyde Park Education Complex, 655 Metropolitan Ave.
- Wednesday, March 12: 5pm, Winter Chambers, 26 Court St., Boston
- Tuesday, March 18: 6pm, Edison K-8 School, 60 Glenmont Rd., Brighton