Boston School Committee approves $1.4 billion budget for next fiscal year, renews bus vendor contract

School buses travel along Dorchester Ave on the first day back to school in Boston. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
School buses travel along Dorchester Avenue on the first day back to school in Boston in 2022. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

The Boston School Committee voted 4-2 Wednesday night to approve a new $1.45 billion budget to fund the system's upcoming school year — a $65 million increase over last year.

"We're building on things that are working and strengthening the areas that need support," said Superintendent Mary Skipper moments before the vote was taken. "So that going forward [Boston Public Schools] will be the stable, high-functioning district that our families, our staff, our students need and deserve."

School officials say there are two main themes that drove their spending priorities for the newly approved budget: improving parent engagement and closing achievement gaps between high-needs learners — like English learners and students with disabilities — and their peers.

Administrators plan to spend $9.6 million to expand the district's inclusion school model, which provides students in special education more time in general education classrooms. The school system will spend $6.3 million on services for multilingual services, including the formation of a new bilingual programs department, additional social workers, as well as efforts to bolster the district's pipeline of bilingual educators.

The bulk of the school district's budget, about $900 million, will go toward staff payroll. That number includes nearly $28.7 million in salary increases.

Skipper also moved about $15 million worth of expenses that previously were covered by federal COVID relief funds onto the district's general budget. The federal funding, known as Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER), is set to dry up in September 2024.

The two school committee members who voted against the budget expressed concerns over what the district will do when the federal funds run out.

"This budget, for me, feels fiscally irresponsible and misaligned with some of the fiscal realities we know we're about to face," said Brandon Cardet-Hernandez. "Fiscal realities that we all know will have very real life altering consequences."

The committee voted nearly unanimously, however, in favor of a new five-year $17.5 million contract with school bus transportation vendor, Transdev. One school committee member abstained from the vote.

The district and Transdev, which has run the district's bus system since 2013, have repeatedly faced criticism over late school buses.

School officials said they committed to another contract with Transdev partly because of limited competition. Many vendors are not able to serve the number of students in Boston's district.

The school system also came under scrutiny after Transdev was the sole official bidder in the procurement process despite initial interest from three other companies. District transportation leaders earlier told the school committee that those vendors felt the “contract risks were too great” to keep their bids in place.


Headshot of Carrie Jung

Carrie Jung Senior Reporter, Education
Carrie is a senior education reporter.



More from WBUR

Listen Live