At his State of the City address earlier this week, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh enjoyed the company of a healthy crowd inside historic Symphony Hall—and another healthy crowd of protestors outside criticizing the $50 million deficit currently faced by Boston Public Schools.
In his speech, Walsh praised the city's expansion of early childhood education but said they had "stretched funding as far as it would go." He then called on the state legislature for contributions. Meanwhile, new Superintendent Tommy Chang has asked the central office to trim its budget by $20 million and to cut another $10-12 million more in per-student funding.
Former Massachusetts Secretary of Education Paul Reville said Walsh is engaged in a delicate balancing act between managing high costs while still finding money for expanding valuable early education programs.
"Costs are rising at a faster rate than the income of the School Department or the income of the city is going up," Reville explained.
"He's obviously prioritizing education and at the same time he has to manage these cuts, he's looking to the future and saying: 'we have to emphasize early childhood education,' and he's trying to do put significant pressure on the state to step up and do more," Reville continued.
While Walsh and New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio both campaigned on expanding early childhood education, New York City has been more successful in increasing the number of seats available since they were both elected. Currently, early education in Boston only meets around 50% of demand.
The difference, Reville argued, was that New York received far more financial support from the state government than Boston has received from Massachusetts—possibly due to Governor Charlie Baker's skepticism that early childhood education should be a priority.
"The data suggest high-quality early childhood education is essential if we want to get children, especially low-income children, on track to achieve at high levels in elementary school. The governor and the administration doesn't seem to be convinced on that," Reville said.
To hear the entire discussion click on the audio link below.
Paul Reville is the Francis Keppel Professor of Educational Policy and Administration at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the former Massachusetts Secretary of Education under Governor Deval Patrick. To hear more from Paul Reville, tune into Boston Public Radio above.