Improve Our Public Schools

Michael will work cooperatively with our next mayor, the school committee, and his colleagues on the city council to implement a performance review system for all city departments. With respect to the school department, this will mean that more of our tax dollars will be spent in the classroom, where they are needed.

Michael believes we can turn around our failing schools through bold reforms such as shifting to a school-based management system where principals are given greater authority to make decisions that best meet the needs of their particular student population. Under such a system, teachers and parents would also be more empowered and involved in discussions about budgeting and programming. We must also demand greater standards for accountability, making all schools responsible for providing a quality education and graduating all students, with the ultimate goal being increased college matriculation.

An April 2009 study released by the Mauricio Gaston Institute for Latino Community Development and Public Policy Institute of UMass Boston affirmed that the fastest growing achievement gap in the Boston Public Schools is between English Language Learners and mainstream BPS students. Another significant achievement gap exists between mainstream students and those with linguistic or physical/cognitive challenges. The point is that our ESL and special education programs are in dire need of reform, especially since these students are at greatest risk of dropping out.

"We also need to create year-round student employment, and programs like School to Career, which connects activities as a way to give students an opportunity to use their classroom knowledge in a work environment. We must put programs in place at not only the elementary school, but at the high school level, as well – programs that will provide kids the tools and the confidence they need to be able to compete. And we need to take other smart steps, like improving communications between our schools."

Michael also advocates putting street workers into troubled schools to ensure we are providing and preserving a safe learning environment. His plan proposes the placement of two street workers — civilian neighborhood outreach workers that pound the pavement looking to connect hard-to-reach youth with services and resources — in the schools that have experienced the most criminal incidents. If the pilot proves effective in reducing incidents it should be expanded on a citywide basis.

For fiscal year 2013, Boston budgeted $88 million for transportation, or approximately one tenth of the entire annual budget for the school department. Plainly put, this is wrong and cannot continue, particularly in a system with so many youth at risk and under-performing schools. There is a better way to provide quality education to our children, a better way to provide more choices for parents. And there is value in recognizing the benefits of allowing a child to go to school closer to his or her home while at the same time maintaining demographic diversity.

"We have been making progress with city schools, but there is a great deal of room for more improvement. We must turn around our low graduation rates, and reverse the fact that we have more under-performing than performing schools." Michael will help lead this effort.

Tweets from @mfflaherty