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Largest-Ever BPS Budget Proposal Includes Funding to Expand Access to Exam Schools, Targeted Funds for High-Needs Students

On Wednesday, February 6, Boston Public Schools (BPS) Interim Superintendent Laura Perille presented to the Boston School Committee a proposed district budget for Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20) of $1.139 billion, which includes targeted investments that directly support students and families, increase per-pupil spending, and expand access to exam school admissions.

The proposed schools budget represents a $26 million projected increase over the current year, and is the largest school budget in Boston’s history. Over the past six years under the leadership of Mayor Martin J. Walsh, the City’s allocation to BPS has increased by $200 million. The appropriation for next year will increase further when the City reaches a contract agreement for teachers with the Boston Teachers Union.

More information on the FY20 budget proposal is available online at

The FY20 proposal reflects Mayor Walsh’s continued commitment to invest in BPS, increasing Boston’s school budget despite facing an ongoing decline in state education funding. This comes as the Mayor joins a statewide coalition of legislators, municipalities, teachers, students and advocates in supporting  the Education PROMISE Act, which would address historic inequities in state funding formulas.

"Our students in Boston 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," said Mayor Walsh. "Through this budget, more funding than ever before is being directed towards individual schools and students to support the enrichment of their academic curriculum. With the hard work and dedication of our committed school leaders and staff, we will keep our students on a pathway toward achieving their dreams."

The FY20 budget proposal 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, for a total increase of $200 million. This has allowed BPS to improve its student-to-teacher-and-para ratio from 11-to-1 to 10-to-1 for every 100 students over the past six years.

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

There are numerous targeted investments in the proposed 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 details on these investments are found lower in this press release.)

“Despite decreased funding from the state, the City of Boston and BPS are working tirelessly to provide the resources our students need to succeed,” said BPS Interim Superintendent Laura Perille. “Our budget proposal not only gives more funding directly to schools, it supports our students who need it the most through targeted investments that help traditionally marginalized populations and those with special needs.”

"The Boston School Committee appreciates the thorough and thoughtful planning that went into the FY20 budget proposal,” said Boston School Committee Chairperson Michael Loconto. “We all want the very best for each and every student in the Boston Public Schools. The School Committee looks forward to engaging in ongoing dialogue with the district and the public as we deliberate aspects of the budget proposal over the next two months.”

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.

Education PROMISE Act

As the City of Boston’s investments in Boston Public Schools has grown considerably over the past several years, state funding has lagged behind. Inequities in the Commonwealth's education funding formulas have failed urban school districts, like Boston, that educate the majority of economically disadvantaged students, English learners and special education students in the state.

The current education funding formulas result in less net state funding every year for BPS students. Under the Baker Administration’s education bill, the net state aid to Boston would decrease by at least $12 million between FY19 and FY20 alone. If the status quo persists and these formulas are not changed, in two years, Boston will receive no state education aid to support the City's 55,000 BPS students.

To create a more equitable education funding system, Boston is proud to support The Education PROMISE Act that builds upon the important work of the state-appointed Foundation Budget Review Commission by updating and amending the state education funding formula to better reflect the reality of educating complex, high-need students, like Boston. This proposal will also support the high needs of the student populations cities educate and ensure baseline funding levels that guarantee a predictable funding stream for districts.

The Education PROMISE Act provides certainty and sustainability that would enable districts to fund their own education priorities, such as Boston's desire to implement universal pre-K, close persistent achievement gaps, and provide a 21st century learning environment to all of Boston's students.  

Weighted Student Funding

BPS determines how much funding each individual school receives largely through a formula called Weighted Student Funding (WSF). Established in 2011, WSF allows for the distribution of resources in an equitable manner based on the needs of students.

Through WSF, dollars follow students. Each school is provided a specific allocation based on the number of students it has, and each student is assigned a “weight” based on their individual needs. Students who are designated as having special needs, English learners, or another classification such as homelessness, will receive a higher weight, which means more funding.

WSF also provides principals and headmasters flexibility in how to spend their allocations based on their schools’ unique needs.

For schools with enrollment declines that would negatively impact its funding allocation under the WSF formula, BPS provides “soft landings,” which are financial supports in order to maintain stability. BPS is increasing its support for schools with enrollment declines by absorbing changes up to 2 percent in any school budget. This is an increase from 1 percent in FY19.

At the Mattahunt Elementary School in Mattapan, Principal Walter Henderson says Weighted Student Funding has helped provide for crucial resources to serve his students with special needs, which make up about one-third of the students who attend the school.

“Weighted Student Funding is allowing the Mattahunt School to maximize every dollar for our students with special needs, including those with autism,” Henderson said. “Because Weighted Student Funding was designed to help provide resources to the students with the highest need, we're able to make certain investments next year, like hire an additional paraprofessional and purchase more technology."

Opportunity Index

The Opportunity Index is a tool that BPS developed last year to better identify student need. The district began using the tool in the current fiscal year to allocate specific centrally-based funds to schools in a more equitable manner than was done previously. Through the Opportunity Index, each BPS school is provided an Opportunity Index score annually, and schools with the highest scores indicates the highest need for resources. The scores are compiled through numerous factors, such as academic outcomes, attendance rates, neighborhood violence, socioeconomic status, and more.

BPS first used the Opportunity Index in FY19 to provide nearly $6 million in funds for community partnerships based in BPS Central Office to schools with the highest Opportunity Index scores. Community partnerships often involve extracurricular activities and after-school programs. This did not affect community partnerships that were facilitated through individual schools.

Wes Enicks, the executive director of Generations Incorporated, a community organization that provides literacy instruction for early elementary students, said the use of the Opportunity Index has helped his organization provide for students who need it the most.

“The Opportunity Index has bolstered our mission of serving communities where opportunity gaps exist in literacy proficiency,” Enicks said. “This tool has helped ensure that Generations Incorporated is allocating our resources in a throughtful, deliberate manner that reaches students in the greatest need of support.”

For FY20, the Opportunity Index would continue to be applied to partnership funds. In addition, the district is building upon another source of resources for schools, “School Support Funds,” which are allocated with the Opportunity Index and can be used at the school’s discretion. Funding in that area will increase from $3 million to $5 million under the FY20 proposal.

Long Term Financial Plan

The FY20 budget proposal is informed by the work of the BPS Long Term Financial Plan, and in particular, the investment framework developed by the Budget Equity Workgroup. Parents, school leaders and other stakeholders dedicated their time to that effort, which informs our budgeting process today.