Education

Boston Group: Council Should Run Schools

By Robert C. Johnston — February 28, 2001 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

A group of parent activists in Boston wants to turn over the leadership of the city’s public schools to the 13-member City Council, rather than the current seven-member panel that is picked by the mayor.

Boston’s Children First filed a petition this month that asks the council to put a measure on the November ballot that would make the change.

The organizers of the petition have until Aug. 8 to get it qualified for the ballot either by city council approval or a signature drive. If the request is denied, the group sponsoring the petition says it is willing to gather the 24,000 votes that would be needed to place it on the November ballot.

“Our goal is very clear: We are trying to improve the schools,” said Ann F. Walsh, the president of Boston’s Children First, which sued the district in 1999 to end race-based school assignments. The district voluntarily ended the practice later that year.

Before 1991, the district was run by an elected, 13-member school committee, as local school boards are called in Massachusetts. That year, then- Gov. William F. Weld, a Republican, signed state legislation giving the city’s mayor the power to appoint the school committee. Mr. Weld said the district was “in desperate need of fundamental change.”

Since then, the 64,000-student district has reformed its curriculum, instituted mandatory summer programs, and taken other steps that have helped raise student achievement.

But Ms. Walsh, who sees the improvements as “minuscule,” said that Mayor Thomas M. Menino is not accountable enough for the conditions of the schools, and that is one reason she wants to see a change.

“We can’t hold him accountable,” Ms. Walsh argued. “He’s too removed to call and tell that something’s wrong with the schools.”

Rejection in 1996

Basically, Ms. Walsh and her allies believe that City Council members would be more responsive to local constituents.

“Accountability and responsiveness are our main concerns,” said Ms. Walsh, whose organization has invited council members to attend public forums on the petition over the next few months.

Boston voters have already had a chance to overturn the mayorally appointed school board, but declined to do so. In 1996, voters rejected by a ratio of 2-to-1 a ballot measure that would have returned school control to an elected school committee.

A spokesman for Mr. Menino said the mayor believes that the 1996 vote settled the matter, and that in light of recent improvements in the district, this is not the time to make changes.

Superintendent of Schools Thomas W. Payzant said it was too early to tell if the move to change governance would succeed.

He added, though, that running a large urban school district would be a lot for the City Council to handle, and could be the first such model in the nation.

“I don’t think Boston wants to be the first,” Mr. Payzant said. “It runs counter to any model of governance you see across the country.”

Ms. Walsh rejected the argument that the council has too much on its plate already to run the school district. “It’s not a function of ‘can they?’” she said, “but one of staffing.”

Staff Writer Karla Scoon Reid contributed to this report.

A version of this article appeared in the February 28, 2001 edition of Education Week as Boston Group: Council Should Run Schools

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Data Webinar
Education Insights with Actionable Data to Create More Personalized Engagement
The world has changed during this time of pandemic learning, and there is a new challenge faced in education regarding how we effectively utilize the data now available to educators and leaders. In this session
Content provided by Microsoft
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Accelerate Learning with Project-Based Learning
Earlier this year, the George Lucas Educational Foundation released four new studies highlighting how project-based learning (PBL) helps accelerate student learning—across age groups, multiple disciplines, and different socio-economic statuses. With this year’s emphasis on unfinished
Content provided by SmartLab Learning
School & District Management Live Online Discussion Principal Overload: How to Manage Anxiety, Stress, and Tough Decisions
According to recent surveys, more than 40 percent of principals are considering leaving their jobs. With the pandemic, running a school building has become even more complicated, and principals' workloads continue to grow. If we

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education California Makes Ethnic Studies a High School Requirement
California is among the first in the nation to require students to take a course in ethnic studies to get a diploma starting in 2029-30.
4 min read
FILE - In this Jan. 22, 2020, file photo, Democratic Assembly members, from left, James Ramos, Chris Holden Jose Medina, and Rudy Salas, Jr., right, huddle during an Assembly session in Sacramento, Calif. Medina's bill to make ethnic studies a high school requirement was signed into law by California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday, Oct. 8, 2021. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)
Education California Requires Free Menstrual Products in Public Schools
The move comes as women’s rights advocates push nationwide for affordable access to pads, tampons, and other items.
1 min read
Tammy Compton restocks tampons at Compton's Market, in Sacramento, Calif., on June 22, 2016. California public schools and colleges must stock their restrooms with free menstrual products under a new law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, Friday, Oct. 8, 2021.
Tammy Compton restocks tampons at Compton's Market, in Sacramento, Calif., on June 22, 2016. California public schools and colleges must stock their restrooms with free menstrual products under a new law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, Friday, Oct. 8, 2021.
Rich Pedroncelli/AP
Education Florida to Dock School District Salaries for Requiring Masks
Florida is set to dock salaries and withhold funding from local school districts that defied Gov. Ron DeSantis' ban on mask mandates.
2 min read
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, at the Doral Academy Preparatory School in Doral, Fla.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, at the Doral Academy Preparatory School in Doral, Fla.
Wilfredo Lee/AP
Education More Than 120,000 U.S. Kids Had Caregivers Die During Pandemic
The toll has been far greater among Black and Hispanic Americans, a new study suggests.
3 min read
FILE - In this Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021 file photo, a funeral director arranges flowers on a casket before a service in Tampa, Fla. According to a study published Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021, by the medical journal Pediatrics, the number of U.S. children orphaned during the COVID-19 pandemic may be larger than previously estimated, and the toll has been far greater among Black and Hispanic Americans. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, File)