More than 3,000 Boston Public Schools students walked out of class on March 7 and marched to the Massachusetts State House to protest against the projected $40 million budget cuts to the Boston Public Schools district.
Entirely organized and led by students, this militant action was a key statement in the struggle against the persistent attacks to public education in the city, and it was able to successfully shake the political establishment at its core. Three days after the walkout, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, agreed to restore $6 million back to the system, proposing an updated version of the budget with increased funding. However, despite students’ inspirational actions, this new budget still failed to fully cover the district’s needs, making it clear that, in order to win the struggle, the city will have to see a much larger collective action from students, parents, teachers, and workers from the community.
These attacks on our schools come at the same time as both the city and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts are giving massive financial incentives to corporations like General Electric, to which they are granting more than $150 million in corporate handouts. Mayor Walsh has said that convincing GE to relocate in Boston is like “winning the Powerball,” stating that it will bring “positive activity to the economy.” Yet he forgets to mention that these financial giveaways include up to $20 million in tax breaks, a situation that will continue to perpetuate income inequality in the city and institutional racism in its educational system.
The Threat of Charter Schools
In addition to budget cuts, the district faces the threat of legislation and a ballot question in November to lift the cap on charter schools. This is happening while the state continues to cut education assistance toward the city, failing to fully reimburse Boston for the state aid it loses to charter schools.
Charter schools are not accountable to their communities. This is yet another attack from state officials seeking to privatize our youth’s education and weaken teachers unions.
After four public meetings and hundreds of students, parents, and teachers testifying against the cuts, the un-elected Boston Public Schools committee voted yes on the cuts, showing us once again that we cannot solely rely on these government agencies to create real change. Unlike the Seattle teachers who went on strike last year and made gains, and Chicago teachers went on a one-day political strike on April 1, the Boston Teachers Union found itself unprepared to take significant action against the budget cuts. This is at least partly the result of a failure to make serious plans to mobilize the wider working-class community.
Members of Socialist Alternative participated in the student walkout and were present at the public meetings, where they talked to the community about building a mass movement that is able to effectively put pressure on the establishment.
Socialist Alternative calls for a tax on the billionaires to fund our schools, an end to high-stakes testing, no new charter schools, an elected and fully accountable School Committee, and for a political voice of the 99% that allows students, parents, and teachers to run candidates against any politicians that support budget cuts and other attacks on working people and youth.