Boston School Committee approves FY14 budget; focuses on improving school quality

District anticipates highest enrollment in eight years this fall


BOSTON – By a unanimous vote tonight the Boston School Committee approved the $934.6 million Boston Public Schools (BPS) 2014 fiscal year budget, a seven percent increase compared to the current year appropriation from the City of Boston. The budget proposal focuses on increasing school quality throughout the district and is backed by a major new investment from Mayor Thomas M. Menino. The BPS budget will now be included as part of Mayor Menino’s citywide budget proposal to the Boston City Council.
“This budget represents another important step forward for the Boston Public Schools,” said School Committee Chairman Michael O’Neill. “It continues our focus on quality and puts as many resources directly into our schools as possible. It supports our vision for more inclusive learning opportunities, more dual-language programs and an expansion of K-8 schools. This budget prepares us well for a full capital plan that will move our schools forward for years to come.”
“To me this is more than just a budget. It reflects our commitment to ensuring every child in our city has access to a quality education,” said Superintendent Carol R. Johnson. “The Mayor’s added resources have given us the opportunity to invest in our schools and programs despite fewer dollars from the federal and state governments.”
Mayor Menino announced during his annual State of the City address that he would infuse an additional $30 million over three years to BPS aimed at increasing quality through the use of additional class time, school partnerships, teaching and leadership support and facilities improvements.
Other investments outlined in the budget include:

  • A $30 million increase in funds that go directly to schools
  • $2.6 million more for schools with high concentrations of students living near or below the poverty line
  • $4.5 million for targeted investments in the district’s lowest performing schools; this budget sustains the extended school days and partnerships that have helped students in the district’s low performing schools make notable progress in key academic areas
  • $500,000 in school leadership development aimed at supporting and growing outstanding principals and headmasters in every school

For the third year, BPS is using a formula known as weighted student funding to determine how funds are distributed to each school. The formula allocates funds to schools by assigning a “weight” to each student based on each child’s individual needs. Each weight has a dollar amount attached to it and follows the students wherever they chose to attend school in Boston. This system ensures equitable and transparent funding of all schools.
The FY14 budget supports an expected enrollment increase of nearly 1,200 students for the next school year. District enrollment is expected to be more than 58,200 next year – a level not seen since 2005.
BPS began the budget planning process facing a $75.9 million funding challenge, brought on by a major reduction in federal and state grants and increased costs. Next year, for example, the district projects state funding will support just 14 percent of the BPS budget – less than half of what the state provided fifteen years ago.
The city’s target appropriation, as well as strategies to reduce expenditures by eliminating some vacant positions, increasing operating efficiencies and delaying some grant spending have allowed BPS to balance the budget. In addition, the Mayor’s Quality Improvement Funds, announced during his State of the City address, allow the district to invest in extended learning opportunities, school partnerships, teaching and leadership development, and technology and facilities upgrades – prioritized for schools and communities where access to quality schools must increase.
Additional budget details, including individual school budget spreadsheets, are available at http://www.bostonpublicschools.org/budget.
Also Wednesday, the School Committee awarded a five-year school bus transportation contract to Illinois-based Veolia Transportation Inc., which will manage the daily operation and maintenance of the city’s school bus fleet beginning in July. BPS has demanded several service improvements under the new bus contract, including:

  • Performance benchmarks that call for greater than 95 percent on-time performance — even more stringent than the highly-praised on-time performance of our service this year
  • Doubling safety training for school bus drivers and more safety supervisors on the road
  • Fuel savings and reductions in overall fleet emissions through environmental technology  and an anti-idling plan
  • Regular ‘customer service’ surveys of parents and schools, including ongoing community meetings to listen to feedback and respond to requests 

The contract replaces the current management contract with First Student, which expires on June 30. Under the contract BPS will continue to own the district’s more than 700 school buses. All current school bus drivers, who are now employed by First Student, will become employees of Veolia. Terms of the collective bargaining agreement between First Student and the bus drivers’ union, including salary and benefit packages, remain in effect and will be assumed by Veolia.
Veolia offers bus services in some 130 contracts in the US and Canada, including school transportation services for several school districts in Canada. Its parent company, Veolia Transdev, operates contracts for public transportation for 5,000 city transit authorities in 27 countries.

Facts about BPS school bus transportation:

  • BPS transports about 33,200 students to and from 228 schools on 732 school buses every day. State law requires BPS to transport BPS, charter, private and parochial students.
  • Our bus fleet travels approximately 26,000 miles per day, of which 64 percent are to and from BPS schools – the remaining 36 percent are for charter, private and parochial schools.
  • For Fiscal Year 2013, BPS budgeted $88 million for transportation, or approximately one tenth of the entire annual budget.

 

 

The Boston Public Schools, the birthplace of public education in the United States, serves more than 57,000 pre-kindergarten through grade 12 students in 128 schools.

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