Investing in our students to provide a better education for all

By Boston Public Schools Superintendent Tommy Chang

At the Boston Public Schools, we believe that our budget is a values statement, reflecting our commitment to creating the best schools for all our students. Through the BPS budget, we prioritize investing in every individual learner throughout their academic career. We must ensure that all students — regardless of their race, native language, or immigration status — have equitable access to the supports they need to prepare them to succeed in college, career, and life.

Here in Boston, the biggest percentage of the City’s budget is allocated to investing in our students and our schools. This is due to Mayor Walsh’s commitment to creating 21st century classrooms with excellent teachers, learning environments and tools for students.

Under the Mayor’s leadership, the City’s allocation to BPS over the past five years has increased by $170 million, or 18 percent. This significant investment in our school system comes at a time when net education aid from the state has decreased.

Although aid from the state continues to decline, Boston continues to invest record amounts in our students: the $1.109 district budget we are proposing for next school year marks the largest ever in BPS history. Our proposal includes a $48 million increase over last year, building upon the gains we’ve made in key areas that have proven results: early childhood education, extended learning time, and excellent teachers in every classroom. It also makes record investments in individual school budgets and maintains Boston’s leadership in investment levels on a per pupil basis, both in the state and across the county.

With the graduation rate at an historic high and more Level 1 and 2 schools in city history, Boston continues to lead the nation in public education. The proposed budget for next school year will allow us to build on that momentum.

The BPS budget continues to invest in proven strategies to close opportunity and achievement gaps, including supporting Extended Learning Time, which has added 40 minutes to the school day at 57 schools serving grades K-8 over the past three years.

The budget is a making strategic investment to grow the academic-enrichment program known as “Excellence for All,” which will be supported with an additional $700,000, bringing the total allocation to $2.6 million. The program, which currently serves 4-5th grades in 13 schools, will expand to include 6th grade and serve a total of 1,700 students at 16 schools. Now in its second year, Excellence for All provides rigorous instruction and high-quality enrichment, such as foreign languages and robotics, in an inclusive setting.

In addition, we continue to hire the best teachers for Boston schools by offering competitive teacher compensation.

Our budget is also bolstering initiatives that have successfully opened new avenues of opportunity for our most marginalized populations. One such initiative that we will be expanding is Becoming a Man (BAM), which has a proven track record of successfully serving young men of color by using school-based group counseling and mentoring to teach valuable life skills.

As a school system, we recognize that in order for all students to be successful, we need to provide them social and emotional supports in order to help them learn effectively. That is why, for the second year in a row, BPS is providing funding to individual schools to assist students who are experiencing homelessness. This important initiative last year helped approximately 3,500 students.

We are also proposing to add more money to individual school budgets and provide soft landings for schools that are seeing enrollment declines. This year’s budget includes funding to ensure that no school will see a financial impact for the first one percent of an enrollment decline.

The BPS budget is created with students in mind first. We are working to close opportunity and achievement gaps, and build safe, welcoming and sustaining learning environments for all our students. We believe this budget will continue to ensure each and every BPS student has an excellent education in a 21st-century school.

House passes bill to help victims of Equifax, credit data hacks

By Local state Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez

In 2017, Equifax’s data was hacked in one of the single largest data security breaches in our nation’s history. Between May and July, the personal information – names, social security numbers, addresses, driver’s licenses, and credit card numbers – of nearly 145.5 million Americans was collected by criminals from Equifax’s systems. It wasn’t until September that the breach was even announced and consumers could protect themselves.

For the 3 million affected in Massachusetts, the best they could do was to freeze their credit report and register for credit monitoring. At the very least, that would prevent criminals from using stolen information to open new credit cards, take out loans, or commit other forms of identity theft.

Issues soon arose. Equifax charged consumers to freeze their credit. They made $5 off of every person who wanted to protect their identity after Equifax’s data was breached. Equifax waived the fee for a short period, but that is now over.

In response, the Massachusetts House of Representatives passed a bill that would protect Massachusetts consumers whose data was compromised by Equifax’s data breach, and would enhance safeguards against future hacks and threats.

Specifically, the bill prohibits fees for freezing/unfreezing your credit information, shortens the waiting period to implement a freeze, and allows you to request a freeze by phone or electronically. It requires notice of any breach to be sent out immediately even if the scope of breach is not yet determined. The legislation also requires credit monitoring services to be available for one year for certain consumers affected by a breach and establishes additional protections for minors and incapacitated adults.

One thing I’ve heard while talking to people is that they don’t even know if they were affected by the breach. Or, they know they were affected, but are unsure how to protect against future credit fraud. In a major shift, our bill requires users to first obtain consent from a consumer before obtaining a consumer report. This means, you’d have to sign off on a credit card company or phone company accessing your credit report.

Data privacy and security is an incredibly important issue in this new age. The House is committed to protecting consumers and their personal information. This bill empowers Massachusetts residents to take control of their credit history. No one should be prevented from buying a house, taking out a loan, or getting a new phone because their information was hacked. Our legislation brings us one step closer to this goal.

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