Boston Public Schools chief, Carol Johnson, announced a new round of school closures at a public meeting on December 2. These are part of her “Redesign and Reinvest” program to close nine schools, merge ten others, and convert three others into charters. Those who attended the meeting had to submit questions in advance via note cards, allowing administrators to screen out any uncomfortable questions. The closures themselves were only announced two days before the meeting, preventing parents and teachers from organizing any kind of protest.
Johnson has blamed the closures on the economic crisis and on teachers’ salaries. However, as recently as October, Johnson had insisted that the closures and consolidations were part of a plan to improve graduation rates, calling into question her real motives. As usual, the fiscal crisis is being blamed on workers, in this case, teachers. While bankers and investors were bailed out by the federal government, the rest of us must pay in declining wages, benefits and pensions and deteriorating working conditions. Johnson has promised to do the same with BPS teachers by lengthening the work day by an hour and exploring a merit pay system based on teacher evaluations.
Like other districts throughout the nation, edu-profiteers have been working to privatize and corporatize BPS schools. In 2005, the Gates Foundation invested $9 million in BPS. In 2008, EdVestors set up a $1.5 million Arts Expansion Fund, funded partially by Bank of America and Bain Capital. In 2009, a charter school study was funded by the Boston Foundation, to promote the creation of more charters in Boston. Several existing charter schools in Boston also have plans to expand.