$2.4 million investment to support health of Boston Public Schools students
Mayor Martin J. Walsh today announced the proposed Boston Fiscal Year 2019 budget (FY19) will include a new $2.4 million investment that will fund eight additional nurses and 12 additional psychologists and social workers for Boston students. The $1.109 billion BPS budget marks the largest in City history, and a $48 million increase over last year's budget. Last week, the Boston School Committee passed the FY19 BPS budget with a unanimous vote.
"As we reviewed this year's overall City budget, we found additional cost savings thanks to our commitment to strong fiscal management over recent years, and we are pleased to redirect those savings back into Boston's largest and most important investment -- our kids," said Mayor Walsh. "Providing students with resources to help foster their physical, emotional, and mental health goes a long way on putting them, and keeping them, on a path to success."
"Our students arrive in our schools with a myriad of needs -- from trauma and social-emotional support to health issues," said BPS Superintendent Tommy Chang. "As educators and caretakers, it's our job to ensure the needs of the whole child are being met in order for them to be successful in school and in life. Increasing the number of school psychologists, nurses, and counselors will have a long-lasting, positive impact on students."
The City of Boston is proud of its track record of effectively managing healthcare costs, in the face of national trends that have put significant upward pressure on such costs. As a result of Boston's ongoing commitment to review internal costs and redirect savings into impactful programs and services, the City has identified $2.4 million that was previously budgeted for healthcare costs, and will shift those funds into creating increased supports for BPS students. The City continues to benefit from the Walsh Administration's proactive approach to reducing costs, including saving $50 million over five years as a result of healthcare cost reforms achieved with the Public Employee Committee.
"We applaud the City and the District for taking proactive steps towards addressing the gaps within the critical services that Boston Public School students and families depend on," said Jessica Tang, President of the Boston Teachers Union. "BTU school psychologists, nurses, teachers, counselors and social workers have consistently advocated for increased investments in these services, and this allocation is evidence that our voices, along with those of students and families, are being heard. We will continue to advocate jointly with the City for adequate state and federal resources to ensure Boston Public Schools is a place where all students can learn and thrive. While there is more to be done, we welcome these allocations as a positive action aimed at achieving our shared goal of bolstering supports for all Boston students."
This new $2.4 million investment will add eight nurses, seven psychologists, four social workers, and a director of social work services. Eight new nurses will bring the number of schools with at least one full-time nurse to 74.
The seven new psychologists who will be integrated into student services include five bilingual school psychologists and two district-wide psychologists, which will significantly increase the amount of mental health services available to students. In addition, BPS will hire four bilingual trauma and resiliency social workers, who will focus on helping students and families address trauma that may have occurred in their lives. A director of social work will also be hired to support these four new front-line social workers, in addition to BPS' 55 current school-based social workers, as well as student interns deployed to schools. The director will provide supervision of school-based social workers as well as assistance, and will develop partnerships with mental health organizations and higher education institutions, focused on advancing mental health for all BPS students.
"We are all grateful to Mayor Walsh for once again putting Boston Public Schools' students first," said Boston School Committee Chairperson Michael Loconto. "Our school staff assist students with real-life issues that go beyond academics everyday. It is heartening to see the City of Boston using savings to invest in our students despite declining state aid."
Mayor Walsh has increased the BPS budget by $170 million, or 18 percent, over the past five years. During the same time, BPS has continued to achieve its highest four-year high-school graduation rate and more high-ranking Level 1 and 2 schools than ever before.
The FY19 budget features investments in individual school budgets, extended learning time, hiring effective teachers, supports for students experiencing homelessness, and an empowerment program for young men of color, among other vital supports.
"This additional investment is important and crucial for the social and emotional well-being of Boston Public School students," said City Councilor Annissa Essaibi-George, Chair of the Education Committee. "I'm glad that the testimonies given by school psychologists, nurses, and social workers at School Committee meetings were not unheard. We are heading in the right direction and I hope that soon these professionals will be in every Boston Public School."
The FY19 budget increases funding to individual schools by $40 million, which includes approximately $30 million toward higher teacher salaries and an additional $10 million in further investments.
Those additional investments are focused on the district's highest-need schools and supporting schools in transition due to enrollment shifts. In the FY19 budget, no school will see a financial impact for the first one percent of an enrollment decline. In total, BPS has proposed dedicating $3.8 million to ensure smooth transitions for schools with fluctuating enrollments, including a $1 million reserve to support lower performing schools.
The district will provide an additional $3 million to schools through the Opportunity Index to assist high-need students through the Opportunity Index, an innovative tool that quantifies differences in experiences, opportunities, and needs between students, allowing BPS to allocate resources more equitably BPS will also use the Opportunity Index to reallocate $5.8 million in external partnership funding to schools with our highest-need students.
The increased funding from the City comes despite the Governor's proposed budget that would decrease net state education aid to Boston by $21 million. While Mayor Walsh has increased BPS' annual budget by $170 million since taking office, the state's Chapter 70 funding has only increased by $8 million. The Commonwealth also continues to underfund charter school reimbursements for cities and towns, which under the Governor's proposed budget translates into $27 million in lost funding in Boston in FY19 alone and more than $100 million over the last five years. The City is bridging this gap and contributing additional resources to strengthen BPS' efforts to provide each of its students a high-quality education in a 21st-century learning environment.
The approved budget will be submitted to the Boston City Council for final approval later this spring.