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Boston Will Lay Off 83 School Custodians To Help Close Budget Shortfall

To close a $32 million budget gap, the Boston School Committee approved a budget Wednesday that lays off 83 custodians — one quarter of the cleaning staff — but avoids losing more than a dozen teachers.

The committee also voted to consolidate bus yards and put off painting school buildings to address the shortfall.

Many parents and school committee members voiced worry about losing so much of the cleaning staff. Tali Graham, of the Boston Urban Asthma Coalition, said that custodians promote public health.

"They clean up potentially infectious material when kids throw up (and) bleed outside the schools," Graham said.

School committee member Alfreda Harris voted for the school budget, but said officials should consider furloughing teachers for one day to avoid laying off so many custodians.

"Custodians are very, very important," Harris said. "That does affect (students') education as well."

Though the budget gap was closed without laying off teachers, Superintendent Carol Johnson said the city now needs to turn its attention to the FY2012 budget, which likely will involve school closings.

"We are making progress, graduation rates are up, and we have to have enough to invest where it matters most," Johnson said.

WBUR's Bianca Vasquez Toness contributed to this report.

This program aired on March 25, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.

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