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Boston School Leaders Propose Adding Social Workers, Custodians, Family Liaisons In 2021 Budget

This article is more than 1 year old.

Boston Public Schools Superintendent Brenda Cassellius's 2021 budget proposal tops $1.26 billion, an $80 million increase from the year before. Included in that additional funding is what district officials say is $36 million in new school-based investments that go beyond expected cost increases.

Boston Public Schools Superintendent Brenda Cassellius revealed what she called a "historic and unprecedented" budget to the school committee tonight to cover school operations in fiscal year 2021. The proposal follows the release of the new superintendent's strategic plan last month which laid out her goals for the district over the next five years.

"We all know that a strategic plan doesn't mean anything if it's not implemented well," she said. "And part of implementing something well is making sure that it's properly resourced both on the human capital side and the financial side."

Cassellius said most of the additional financial support will be focused on the city's 33 lowest performing schools.

"When you start with the neediest students and make big investments there all boats tend to rise," she said. "The level of quality in the entire community will rise."

Some of the biggest investment proposals for next year come in the form of new staff. District officials plan to spend about $5.6 million to hire about 40 new school-based social workers. Increasing the number of licensed mental health providers was a provision in the Boston Teachers Union new contract with the district.

Cassellius also hopes to expand the family liaison system. Her budget proposal includes $2.5 million to support a system of 36 family liaisons who will be spread out among 33 schools. Custodial staff will be getting a boost. The district plans to hire 25 new custodians for next school year and invest in a project tracking system to support that department's work. And Cassellius hopes to add about 17 art and music teachers to district schools.

The district also plans to spend more on technology and classroom materials. Cassellius wants to spend about $4 million to fund a 1:1 computing initiative for high school students and about $2.5 million to fund literacy materials for elementary school students.

The 2021 budget proposal includes the extra funding promised by Mayor Marty Walsh in his State of the City address. Walsh plans to roll out $100 million in new school funding over the next three years. This year BPS schools will see $36 million in new investments. Next year, that funding will grow to roughly $66 million, followed by the full $100 million by 2022. Superintendent Cassellius said she's confident the infusion of cash will lead to gains district wide. She added that gradual nature of the funding rollout will also help them refine the district's budget plan and investment strategies in the years that follow.

"We want to be able to build on schools that need it the most, see how this works, understand it, study it, and then replicate it for the next year with an additional subset of schools."

Officials with the Boston Teachers Union said they're encouraged by the additional investments proposed for next year's budget. Union president Jessica Tang argued that without it many schools would be seeing cuts to their budgets.

"While the investment still isn't sufficient to fill all of the gaps, it will be helpful to the schools with the greatest need," she said in a written statement. "We look forward to working with the superintendent to continue advocating for the resources that all schools must have."

A final vote on the budget is expected this spring.

Carrie Jung Twitter Reporter, Edify
Carrie is a senior education reporter with Edify.


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