Campbell proposes ‘Student Acceleration Accounts’ from federal stimulus relief funding

With the Boston Public Schools receiving over $400 million in federal relief funding, Councilor and mayoral candidate Andrea Campbell is calling on the district to put control of some resources directly in the hands of families, teachers, and schools to get students what they need after a year of tremendous learning disruption.

Federal stimulus dollars are expected to exceed $9,000 per student in BPS. Campbell’s plan proposes a portion of those funds, $3,000 per child, be allotted to “Student Acceleration Accounts” so that parents and caregivers, in collaboration with their child’s teachers and schools, can choose the right supports for their child that can be delivered starting this spring and summer.

“As a mother, I know this pandemic has taken a huge toll on our children, and that parents know best what supports their children need to make up for the tremendous learning disruption over the past year. I’m calling for BPS to dedicate $3,000 of federal relief funds to each and every BPS family so they can choose the best supports for their child and so we can get it done now, not next year,” said Councilor Campbell. “Of course there will be a role for centrally-run programs as well, but we also need to trust the adults closest to our students to know what’s best for each child.”

Campbell’s proposal includes the following:

• Each family would have control over $3,000 of ‘BPS Bucks’ to choose services for each child at BPS.

• Through either a simple web portal or paper form, families can choose from a menu of services for their child.

• Services would include, for example, one-on-one or small group tutoring with BPS teachers or staff, homework help, afterschool and summer programs, social emotional supports including one-on-one counseling, and other customized student supports.

• Schools, teachers and families would collaborate to meet the needs of each student — teachers providing input for families on each student’s needs and schools providing input on the menu of options for students at their school.

As the selected Commission and district continue their public decision-making process, Campbell is pushing for a final plan to include a combination of family- and school-led control of resources along with central office priorities. Student acceleration accounts are one model to accomplish such family- and school-led control, and will be most successful in combination with critical central office investments. 

Campbell’s plan to empower teachers, schools, and families builds on the priorities that she announced in March for federal stimulus dollars which include making up for lost time through tutoring and summer programs, planning for a seamless reopening in the fall, investing in curriculum and technology, and building the school buildings our students and staff deserve. Specifically, Campbell recommends Boston Public Schools use federal relief funding for the following strategies:

1. Make up for lost time. Boston’s top priority must be to make up for the significant and inequitable gaps which have been exacerbated in the last year. That should include summer school and high-dosage tutoring, through staff stipends as well as tutoring by other community members and non-profit community partners, not only for next school year, but for many years to come. Any family who wants enriching and educational summer programming should receive it for the next three years. We also know that mental health has been a challenge for many of our students amidst the isolation and pain of the last year, so our recovery must also include an infusion of counseling and social emotional supports.

2. Plan for a seamless reopening in the fall. These funds give Boston the resources the City needs to stipend teachers, school leaders, and other staff to have real planning time this summer, so that on the first day of school, we’re ready to welcome back students and address their individual needs — everything from health and safety protocols and on-time buses to the social and emotional supports we know our students will need.

3. Invest in curriculum and technology. The stimulus also provides a unique opportunity to make overdue updates in the materials our students and educators use every day.  That can include modernizing Madison Park’s vocation facilities, ensuring staff and students have the hardware and software they need across the district, and putting high-quality, culturally and linguistically sustaining curriculum in our schools.

4. Build the school buildings children and educators deserve — while freeing up money for the future. The pandemic highlighted what many of our families and educators already knew — our buildings are in dire need of repair. While we had our attention on windows that won’t open and non-existent HVAC systems, we also know that too many of our buildings lack the 21st century learning environments that our communities deserve. Now is the moment to finally accelerate facilities investment, which can include investing in energy efficiency and sustainability, such as replacing lighting, updating heating and cooling systems, upgrading windows, and even installing solar panels. These investments are not only good for our air quality and our carbon footprint, but the district will reap the financial returns for years to come, allowing us to make long term investments in services our children deserve.

In February, Campbell released a comprehensive education plan to address student learning loss during the pandemic, elevate the quality of all Boston Public Schools, and transform Boston Public Schools into a more equitable district so that every Boston student has access to an excellent public education and opportunities that will prepare them for success.

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