Is “2” the Best You Could Do, REALLY?

Posted: September 28, 2016 by Donna Bivens in Uncategorized
no-on-2The public school education system in Boston has been under controversy for decades. For years until the late 1960’s the Boston Public school system operated under a separate but equal policy* which segregated the White population of children  from the Black population of children. The alleged premise of separate but equal claimed that the only difference between the two systems was the color of the children’s skin. All other tangible, important concerns were the  allegedly equal. The school buildings were maintained the same; the quality of the teachers was the same; the pay for the teachers was the same; the educational resources of supplies, equipment, and teaching materials were the same; the libraries were the same ; access to  and support of extracurricular activities(sports , music, the arts were the same. Or so the public and especially the Black community were duped into believing.
In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s the Boston Branch of the NAACP pulled together data that told a different story about the reality of separate but equal in the Boston public school system. They found blatant evidence of a lack of not just financial resources, but the lack of concern for the quality of the curriculum being used in the schools in the Black community. Initially the fight was to make sure that the Schools in the Black community received its fair share of tax dollars for the education of their children.

When the Morgan v. Hennigan case was presented by the NAACP to Judge Arthur Garrity, he found that the two tiered system of separate but equal would be too financially costly to simply make equal. Garrity instead ordered citywide desegregation as the solution. In a stroke of a pen, Garrity altered the fate of the education system into what it is today. The White parents of students in the in Boston public school system were outraged that their precious White children must now sit next to Black children to get their FREE education. Despite protests and riots by these parents and many White elected officials Judge Garrity would not rescind the order of desegregation. What began in quick fashion was the phenomena called WHITE FLIGHT. White people either moved out of Boston to surrounding cities and towns not under the jurisdiction of the Boston Public Schools or put their children into parochial schools. Thus as Boston moved past this turbulent period, the enrollment in the Boston Public schools became predominately Black, with a growing influx of Latino children and working class or poor Whites who couldn’t afford parochial school tuitions or were tied to Boston because of their dependency on public housing.

Once the children were housed together, the Boston Public School system should have flourished.  However as time passed the EXACT SAME issues that had plagued the parents and advocates concerned with the education of Black children resurfaced. The school buildings were not maintained. Books and other teaching tools were inadequate. Libraries were not adequately staffed. Teacher salaries were not kept competitive to attract quality teachers. The curriculum was inadequate to address the needs of these young people as they went out into the larger world. Extra curricular activities were either eliminated or became the adopted projects financed by the efforts of parents and the school staff. Teachers were buying supplies out of their own meager salaries to teach these young minds entrusted to them. Parents and advocates for children began protests anew for more money and resources to be put into the schools which clearly now housed as its majority population children of color( Black, Latino, Asian, and Caribbean).

In a vacuum Charter schools began to emerge with the promise of rescuing Boston public school children from the horrors of the system. The proponents of this alleged brilliant alternative were indeed short sighted. The Charter schools were not private entities that raised their money from private sources. Where did they get the money? They got the money from the Boston Public School budget. Because of limited space to house these programs the Charter schools could only take a few students at a time. Which students made the cut? Those who already were excelling in the Boston public school system. These Charter Schools were not taking ESL students. These  Charter Schools were not taking students with disabilities. They were taking children who were already excelling, taking money out of already tight coffers to educate them outside of the Boston public school system for what purpose? The Charter School system didn’t even attempt to pretend that they were not just interested in the best and the brightest. That was their selling point to parents of the children of color in the Boston Public school system. We will give your children the best FREE education that money can buy with the money we have siphoned from the meager education budget set up for the rest of the children of color.

When parents and advocates of the children of color who were left to further languish in the ill prepared inadequate system that is the Boston School system, protested again, the response  by politicians and proponents of Charter Schools? Let’s create MORE Charter Schools!! Really, that is the best solution that all of these alleged brilliant minds can come up with? Let’s create more Charter Schools? Let’s siphon off even more money from the pitiful budget that the politicians and other feigned concerned grown ups have deemed worthy to educate the Children of Color currently existing in the Boston Schools.

It has been over 50 years since the Boston NAACP took the woefully inadequate and unjust educational plight of Children of Color to Judge Arthur Garrity. Yet once again we are fighting for the right of ALL children, particularly children of color in the Boston schools to have a quality education to adequately prepare them to lead this country into the next millennium.

The questions are many :

Why is the education of children of color such a difficult process to maneuver?

If the Charter Schools alleged agenda is to provide quality education for children, why are they not fighting to enlarge the economic base for the public schools rather than just taking as much as they can for just their Charter School students?

If the Charter Schools are so committed to education for children, why aren’t they including equal percentages of children with severe special needs and the newest ESL students into their system?

If Charter school proponents are concerned with educating children, why do they see nothing wrong with siphoning money away from an already stretched and underfunded Boston school system?

If Charter school proponents feign to care about the education of children, then why is their concern not for ALL children, but a select few?!

The answer to these questions is simple: Boston DOES NOT need MORE Charter Schools. We must not and cannot return children of color to an even more antiquated, already proven to be inadequate and separate system of education. Charter schools are a return to the separate unequal system of 50 years ago. It didn’t work then and it won’t work now. Boston needs to fix the Schools that currently are the responsibility of the Boston Public Schools!


Terry Small Turner is an African American Roxbury resident who attended Boston Public SChools from 1st to 12th grade and personally experienced Boston’s school “desegregation” in the 1970’s. She is also the mother of two children who attended and graduated from BPS schools and has vast knowledge of how BPS functions.
* editor’s note: many do not know that the very concept of “separate but equal” came out of a legal battle over school desegregation in Boston in the 1800’s

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