In an interview with Boston Public Radio on Friday, Mayor Marty Walsh denied suggestions that the Boston Public Schools would consider a proposal that would prevent students enrolled in Catholic or private schools from seeking admission to Boston’s three exam schools. “The information was clearly dead wrong,” Walsh said. “It’s never going to happen.”
Walsh was pointedly critical of the failure to get a response from his office.
Boston Latin, the nation’s oldest public school, has been caught up in allegations of racial insensitivity. The conflict sparked a civil rights investigation by U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz.
In a storypublished Wednesday by WGBH, Senior Editor Peter Kadzis said school superintendent Tommy Chang planned to present a draft proposal to the school committee titled “BPS Strategic Implementation Plan 2016/Opportunity and Achievement Gaps Task Force.” Kadzis wrote that the draft proposal could potentially bar charter and METCO students and “restrict exam school enrollment to students who were enrolled in at least the fifth and sixth grades in BPS elementary schools.”
Chang has denied it was ever his plan to talk about the issues at that time or in that place.
Walsh said these allegations would be unconstitutional, and haven’t been considered by the BPS. He was emphatic. He said the issues were never on the table.
“The conversation about acceptance into the school, on who can take the test or not, isn’t about the demographic breakdown in the school,” Walsh said. “Short term, we have a problem with getting more kids of color, particularly black kids, into the school. But if a taxpayer in the city of Boston who pays their taxes, and they have a child that’s eligible to take the test, they need to be able to take the test. It just wouldn’t be constitutional, not to allow them that opportunity.”
In an article published in the Boston Globe July 4, Walsh said he was unaware that a quasi-advisory committee had assembled to make recommendations for the school’s application process. “I have a lot of concerns about it, I don’t think it’s the right time to be talking about it,” Walsh told the Globe.
During his interview with BPR, host Jim Braude asked Walsh, “You didn’t know that was happening, is it inconceivable that you didn’t know this was happening?
“No,” Walsh said. “No one has produced a document to show me... [they] say, ‘somebody said it’—and somebody saying it is very different than producing a document.”
In response to WGBH’s article, Dan O'Brien, press secretary for the Boston Public Schools, issued the following statement: "The Boston Public Schools does not have a report, in draft or final form, entitled: 'BPS Strategic Implementation Plan 2016/Opportunity and Achievement Gaps Task Force.' The article issued by WGBH is false. There are no proposals to prevent any students from enrolling into the district’s three exam schools. BPS is disappointed that the media outlet who reported this erroneous information did not attempt to verify any facts with the school district before posting the article."
According to Universal Hub, a similar proposal, which circulated two years ago, considered limiting “exam school enrollment to students who were enrolled in BPS in the fifth grade” in an effort to diversify the pool of applicants. “Certainly, two years ago, there was a very different superintendent of schools in the city of Boston,” Walsh said. “There is a brand-new superintendent, so if this went back two years, that superintendent is no longer in the system.”
In a later version of his piece, Kadzis wrote, “An earlier version of this story had a slightly stronger headline that may have suggested the considered change was a done deal. It is not, or was not. And if Mayor Walsh's statement is any indication, the recommendations from the supposedly non-existent document I wrote about will never come to pass.”
To hear Mayor Walsh’s full interview with Boston Public Radio, click on the audio link above.