Walsh to Focus on Education in State of City Address

By John Lynds

In a letter to parents last week, Boston Public Schools Superintendent Tommy Chang said the school department will face a $50 million deficit.

The announcement by Chang has made education one of the focal points of Mayor Martin Walsh’s annual State of the City address to be delivered tonight at Boston Symphony Hall.

Chang said BPS is facing a nearly $30 million structural deficit due in large part to rising fixed costs, including $21 million in salary and benefit increases.

“When coupled with unforeseen costs and important investments in core operations, past commitments, and strategic priorities, the district’s projected budget gap rises to $40-50 million,” said Chang. “As a result, the entire district is forced to make difficult choices. Adjustments were made to the Weighted Student Funding formula that resulted in schools across the system making a total of $10-$12 million in cuts.”

Chang went on to say that  shifts in school enrollment and programming are also impacting individual school budgets.

“Even with these changes to school budgets, and having identified $20 million in cuts to central departments and investments, we are still left with a sizable gap to fill,” said Chang. “We will begin public discussion of these issues in the School Committee meeting on February 3, 2016. A series of public hearings will continue during February and March, culminating with the School Committee’s vote to approve a balanced budget by March 23, 2016.”

Mayor Walsh plans to address some of the issues BPS is facing in his State of the City address.

Walsh plans on talking about a plan to engage the community in a conversation to create a unified enrollment system to ensure that all students in Boston have access to the best schools that fit their individual needs.

Walsh also wants to establish the city’s first permanent school building program in many decades and is currently drafting a 10-year Facilities Plan, to identify the needs in every neighborhood.

Whether or not Walsh will address the potential $50 million deficit specifically remains to be seen.

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