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Approved FY20 Boston Public Schools Budget Increases Exam School Access, Funding For Schools

On Wednesday, March 27, the Boston School Committee passed the fiscal year 2020 (FY20) Boston Public Schools (BPS) budget of $1.139 billion in a unanimous vote. The BPS budget represents a $26 million increase over the current year and a $200 million increase since Mayor Martin J. Walsh took office in 2014.

More information on the FY20 budget proposal is available online at

The FY20 budget, which will be voted on by the Boston City Council in June, makes targeted investments that directly support students and families, increases per-pupil spending, supports critical academic investments, and expands access to exam school admissions. During public budget deliberations over the past two months, BPS distributed an additional $3.2 million — over the $1.139 billion allocation from the City — from reserve funds to further support budgets.

“The City of Boston should be proud that despite declining state aid we continue to invest more money than ever in the education of our children,” said Mayor Martin J. Walsh. "Through this budget, we continue to increase funding for individual schools and students to support the enrichment of their academics. Our students deserve every opportunity to receive a high-quality education, and I am proud that our record investments in the Boston Public Schools reflect that commitment."

This month, Mayor Walsh announced a partnership with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) to provide free “M7” bus and subway passes for all Boston public, private, and charter students in grades 7-12. BPS is mandated to provide school transportation for all public, private, and charter students living in Boston outside of certain distances from their schools.

Mayor Walsh and BPS Interim Superintendent Laura Perille joined numerous local and state leaders recently at the State House to advocate in support of comprehensive education finance reform. Despite the City of Boston’s continued commitment to invest in BPS, an ongoing decline in state funding leaves BPS at risk for receiving zero state funding within two years unless legislative changes are made.

“In this budget, we are not only making strong investments in core teaching and learning work, but are equally deliberate in supporting strategies to close opportunity gaps,” said BPS Interim Superintendent Laura Perille. “We’re expanding supports for crucial initiatives such as science instruction, family engagement, exam school access, and supports for students deemed off-track to graduate. We must always keep make our most vulnerable learners a priority as we work to close persistent gaps.”

The FY20 BPS budget reflects an increase in per-pupil spending by 25 percent over the past six years, from about $16,500 in FY14 to $20,700 in FY20.

BPS is also allocating an additional $6 million for “soft landings” and items that serve high-need students. Soft landings are funds to support schools with declining enrollment.

“I thank all of the community members who shared their priorities with us during the budgeting process,” said Boston School Committee Chairperson Michael Loconto. “With additional funds to support schools with large concentrations of students in need, increases in per-pupil spending, free MBTA passes to unlock access to the City for thousands of students, and targeted investments in initiatives like exam school access, this budget continues our efforts to provide students with the tools needed for educational success."

There are numerous targeted investments in the FY20 budget that would directly benefit students and families in FY20, including:

  • $3.8 million in new City funding to sustain access to high-quality preschool (K1) classroom seats in Boston as part of the Universal Pre-K initiative;

  • $750,000 to facilitate improved outcomes for students in schools identified as needing the greatest amount of support;

  • $500,000 for the BPS Office of Engagement to support improvements to family engagement at schools and at BPS Welcome Centers, where families register students for schools and receive various services;

  • $375,000 to strengthen science instruction;

  • $364,000 to host the exam that students must pass to gain entrance into one of the district’s three exam schools — the ISEE — in students’ current schools. This is another tool aimed at closing opportunity gaps for students of traditionally underserved backgrounds.

  • And, $350,000 to strengthen high school pathways. (More information on key investments is found lower in this article.)

In addition to new investments in the proposed FY20 budget, BPS would sustain the research-backed investments core to the district’s efforts to close opportunity gaps.  Those include the expansion of pre-kindergarten seats (K1), the district’s hiring initiative to attract and retain the best educators, the Extended Learning Time (ELT) initiative that extended minutes in the school day, and the Excellence for All academic enrichment program in grades 4-6.

Key Investments

  • Expanding access to the exam school entrance test: BPS is allocating $364,000 to provide easier access for students wishing to take the test to attend one of the district’s three exam schools: Boston Latin School, Boston Latin Academy, and the John D. O’Bryant School for Mathematics and Science. This fall, BPS will begin providing the test to sixth-grade students in the schools they are currently attending. For many years, students have had to travel to one of a handful of testing locations on a Saturday in November, which can pose barriers for students from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds. This funding would help with family engagement and communication about the ISEE, and expanding test facilitation and the use of test proctors in conjunction with ERB, the company that provides the ISEE assessment. This investment follows multiple years of investment by BPS, Mayor Walsh, and partners to expand access to test preparation through the Exam School Initiative program.

  • Strengthening science instruction: BPS is investing $375,000 to ensure equitable access to Next Generation Standards-aligned science instruction in the elementary grades. The funding will also support professional development for teachers. This comes as BPS aims to improve the percentage of students scoring advanced or proficient in science on state assessments, and as the state accountability system begins putting the increased weight on science.

  • Strengthening high school pathways: BPS is allocating $350,000 toward efforts to assist high school students, including those who are not on track to graduate high school on time. This includes expanding the use of a technology-based system, Naviance, that provides interactive college- and career-readiness assessment tools and a data system to better identify “early warning indicators” for students who may be falling off-track for graduation. This $350,000 is in addition to $1.6 million provided to school budgets to support high school students and the expansion of vocational programming.

  • Assisting schools in greatest need of support: BPS will provide $750,000 to provide professional development and coaching focused on both improving instruction and providing appropriate supports for students in schools identified as having the greatest need for support toward student achievement.

  • Family Engagement Support: About $500,000 will be provided to the BPS Office of Engagement to support family engagement at schools across the district and improve services at BPS Welcome Centers. This includes the creation of a staff position to provide coaching and technical assistance to school administrators on improving family engagement efforts, along with funding to support increased customer service, quality control, and upgrades aimed at improving the experiences for families using Welcome Centers for registration and other purposes.