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Who will stand up for our children?

I was present and testified at the Boston Public Schools hearing on March 24, when the unelected Boston School Committee (in Boston, the School Committee members are appointed by the mayor) unanimously voted to approve a budget that cuts out $63 million from resources designed to educate the 59,000 students who attend the city’s public schools. (That averages out to $2,172.41 for each student.)

Before the public began to testify, Dr. Johnson [Schools Superintendent Carol Johnson] reported that this budget was less than the one that she had when she first became our superintendent in 2007. Year after year of cutting out resources will never get her down. She stays on message – “Things are getting better” – as she continues to dice, slice, and hack away.

According to the BPS website, Johnson said, “This is a big win for the students of Boston,” said Johnson. “We are taking a new approach to allocating resources so that dollars will follow students. Even during a major financial crisis, this budget ensures that students remain our very top priority.”

Closing schools (mostly in neighborhoods of color), increasing class size, eliminating school choice, etc. These have all been done in a school system that has been chronically under-funded for as long as anyone can remember. The mayor, his appointed School Committee and his superintendent want to divert our eyes and attention from the facts of their lives that our children so eloquently shared [at the hearing]. Just look at the BPS and our state and national governments to learn how many high-sounded propaganda titles (No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, MCAS, Acceleration Agenda, etc.) are designed to make us feel good as all levels of government sacrifice the lives of our children, especially children of color and all low-income children of all races.

Most of the people who testified were high school students and they were joined by a number of adults who stood with them. Our message had common themes: Our nation is spending too much money on waging war on other nations and supporting the interests of the super rich, and at the same time spending far too little of our resources that the people, and most specifically for that hearing, what our children need.

After our children and many of their adult supporters left the meeting. I stayed and discovered that there was another major concern that the leaders of our system wanted to share: They lamented that our children did not get it; they did not appreciate all that the leaders were doing for them. To make matters worse, they were being manipulated by adults like me.

I have been an educator (one year in Somerville and the rest of my career in Chelsea) from 1969 to today. For all those years, I have been an educational activist. My child attended the BPS for 12 years and now is in college and I was an active parent in all of her schools. When I testified, I (and everyone else) was only allowed to speak for two minutes, while the superintendent and members of the School Committee spoke for as long as they wanted to.

We are living during a time of terrible economic distress. The government has bailed out Wall Street and our corporate masters, who control the economy and our government, insist that those of us who live on Main Street, including our children, will have to “sacrifice” and pay the bill. The superintendent and members of the appointed School Committee were all there because they have been screened, and they unanimously did their duty and cut away resources that our children desperately need.

Our children brought coffins with them; they understand the intentions of our government and corporate leaders. I am proud that I attended, testified, and stood up for our children. I am proud of all of our children and adults who attended, testified, and did the same. We ask you to join us.
Mike Heichman is a resident of Dorchester.