State schools

Boston slams new state schools plan as sides move ‘further’ as receivership looms

Mayor Michelle Wu criticizes the state’s latest proposal for school receivership, saying the commissioner’s most recent response only separates the two sides “further.”

“Our BPS and DESE teams have worked diligently over the past few weeks on specific details and have made progress toward an agreement,” the mayor said in a statement Wednesday, referring to ongoing tensions between Boston Public Schools and Boston Public Schools. the State Department. primary and secondary education.

She added: ‘It is disappointing that the commissioner’s latest response appears to backtrack and push us further away as we are ready to focus on the work ahead.’

It’s the latest twist after weeks of back-and-forth in a bid to reach a deal that would avoid a state takeover of the beleaguered school district, a tussle that continues now. with the city requesting another meeting.

In a response Tuesday to state education commissioner Jeffrey Riley, Wu, along with outgoing superintendent Brenda Cassellius and school board chair Jeri Robinson, said they would request a meeting because they said that needed more conversation about timelines, data and structure of reforms.

“With the arrival of a new superintendent, we must establish urgent and achievable work plans that set the district up for success, rather than imposing unrealistic deadlines that do not support systemic reform,” they wrote.

DESE did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Riley essentially has the power to set deadlines for negotiation, as he can go into receivership whenever he wants.

Boston Public Schools, which has narrowed its search for seemingly nationwide superintendents to a current administrator and a recent former BPS administrator, is beset on all sides by poor student outcomes, achievement gaps socio -economic gaps, reports of increased violence in and around school buildings, declining enrollment and transportation strategies for struggling students.

The commissioner originally presented a proposal to the city in May as talks over receivership intensified – but the city felt it was asking too much while delivering too little. Wu and his company — after testifying publicly against the receivership at a DESE board meeting days later — rejected his own proposal, suggesting timelines for specific improvements and changes in concert with both infrastructure and cash support from the state.

But now Riley’s latest response, which appeared last Friday, June 17, has taken what city officials already considered a “light receivership” and made it, in their view, even a little heavier.

According to a copy of the updated DESE proposal obtained by the Herald, it comes closer to the city in some ways, including giving the school district and city more leverage in choosing auditors and pushing back some time horizons.

But it is also true that the DESE offer also distances itself from the city in other ways. For one thing, the new proposal now adds a DESE staff member to oversee the district’s data collection in addition to the independent auditor hired by DESE that had already been proposed — a move the city outlined in the statement. letter as “a version of top-down control” beyond what the city is comfortable with. It also adds fast-coming deadlines, such as an August 15 mark for a plan to achieve various special education improvements.

The city also said it was “disappointed” with the wording of the proposal as something the city agreed to do and the state agreed to, rather than a “partnership” the two agreed to.

The state, at the city’s request, offered $10 million, but said a portion of that was to pay for the auditor hired by DESE and other state-mandated areas. .