Advocates for public education approved of the Boston Public Schools (BPS) announcement this week to create a Commission that will advise Supt. Brenda Cassellius on the timeline and distribution of more than $400 million in federal dollars coming to the district.
Boston Public Schools Superintendent Brenda Cassellius announced on Monday a new commission and timeline on how BPS will proceed with investing the nearly $400 million in Federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding the district is expected to receive.
The Commission will advise the Superintendent and BPS on the key focus areas for these new investments, with a commitment to allocating the funding in an equitable and sustainable manner. BPS will leverage the new funding over three years and ensure the new opportunities can be supported for years to come. The Commission will have five meetings, twice monthly over the next two months, with the final meeting to be held on July 1, during which the plan will be presented and posted for a formal 30-day public review and comment period. BPS is working towards a filing deadline in July with the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
Will Austin, director of the Boston Schools Fund, had urged caution and planning over the past few weeks in regards to the money – as it was an historic influx of resources that had not been well-publicized up until now. He said the Commission is a good first step.
“I am glad that Boston Public Schools responded to calls for transparency and careful planning,” he said. “This commission is an important first step in ensuring that Boston Public Schools uses the federal funds in a way that best addresses the educational inequities exacerbated during the pandemic. It’s important for members of the public to be fully informed about how the money will be spent and have a voice in the process.”
The core approach of all aspects of current work in BPS align to our Return, Recover, and Reimagine framework, operational budget, and the five-year strategic plan approved in 2020.
•Return = Ensure a healthy and safe return of students and staff to in-person learning this summer and fall.
•Recover = Reconnect and re-establish our school communities so students have the teaching and support needed to accelerate their learning.
•Reimagine = Seize the opportunity to learn from this past year and apply innovative practices to advance 21st century learning and a more equitable school district.
“I am grateful to President Biden and Congress for this strong investment in ensuring our schools have the resources needed to support students, families, and staff,” said Cassellius. “With the additional investments from the City in our operating budget and capital investments, these new funds will bring critical resources directly into classrooms. We know we cannot return to the pre-pandemic model of learning because it was not working for all students. We have learned a lot since the closure of school buildings in 2020 and are excited for this opportunity to remove the barrier of lack of funding, so we can focus on transforming the educational experience for all our students.”
BPS also announced a new webpage where all information on the funding will be posted so the public can track how funds are being spent, keep up on the strategies the district is employing and stay informed of the measures being used to gauge student outcomes. This new website is designed to ensure BPS is a good steward of the public trust and to serve as an easy-to-access place for transparency and information sharing.
Commission members represent a wide range of community members who engage with BPS on a regular basis, and were selected based on their work with BPS students and school, their relationships with key BPS stakeholders, and their knowledge of the district’s strategic priorities. Members are listed on the Return, Recover, Reimagine Commission webpage.
Meetings will take place from 5 – 6:30 p.m. on the following dates:
•Thursday, May 13
•Thursday, May 27
•Thursday, June 10
•Thursday, June 24
•Thursday, July 1
Meetings will be hosted virtually, simulcast to the public, and feature a public comment period at the end of each meeting. There will also be a formal 30-day public review and comment period.