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As the Boston School Committee meets Wednesday evening to finalize budget cuts, officials say that school closures are off the table — at least for now.
"At this time, we're not recommending closing schools for the FY2011 budget," said Superintendent Carol Johnson. "However, we anticipate that in order to continue to balance our budget, there will be schools that we have to close in the future."
Boston's public schools are facing a $32 million budget gap. Wednesday is the city's deadline to address the shortfall.
In lieu of closing schools, the committee will likely seek to bridge the budget gap by cutting back on maintenance and routine cleaning next year, as the board plans to lay off janitors and postpone painting school buildings. Officials also say they will likely stop busing parochial and private-school students.
Though he said the cutback measures are "painful," School Committee President Gregory Groover stressed that the immediate budget cuts will largely spare students.
"It's still a tight budget, but we were able to have minimal impact on the classrooms," Groover said.
Worried about future closings, Boston teachers say the city should target other revenue sources.
Richard Stutman, of the teachers' union, says Boston's private colleges — which are currently taxed as non-profits — should pay property taxes for their use of city services.
"They ought to pay for this, just like I pay for it," Stutman said. "If they were to pay their fair share, we wouldn't be in this situation."
Despite the shorter-term cuts and newly proposed revenue streams, Groover speaks clearly about the need to close schools in the future due to subsequent budgetary constraints. He says work should begin immediately on the next school budget.
"We need the teachers, we need the parents, we need everyone to look at next year's budget very seriously," Groover said, "and understand that there seems to be no way that we can get around closing schools."
WBUR's Bianca Vazquez Toness contributed reporting.
This program aired on March 24, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.
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