A version of this article was previously published in the Socialist Worker.
The Boston Public Schools have been under sustained budget cuts for several years. This year students decided they’d had enough. After Mayor Marty Walsh announced a proposed $50 million budget cut to BPS, which would have resulted in the closure of several schools, teacher layoffs, the elimination of extracurricular programs and many AP classes, and a reduction in special education services, students, teachers and parents decided to act.
In January a handful of teachers, parents, and students protested inside of Mayor Walsh’s State of the City address. Over February break, several hundred people protested outside of city hall. Then, in early March a group of BPS students put out a call for a district-wide student walk. To their surprise, and everyone else’s, over 3,500 students walked out of school and flooded Downtown Boston to protest the mayor’s proposed cuts and demand additional funding for public education. Publicly embarrassed and facing tremendous pressure from students, parents, and teachers the mayor backed down—partially.
Several days after the walkout Walsh announced that no cuts would be made to any of the high schools. Instead, funding would be cut back from elementary schools, autism programs, and a proposed pre-K program. Outraged students, parents, and teachers have continued to speak and organize. Below is an interview with two of the student organizers behind the March 7 walkout.
For more information about upcoming actions and the final Committee hearing on March 23, check out Boston Education Justice Alliance
An Interview With Jahi Spaloss and Harry Saunders, student organizers from the #BPS Walk-Out.
Keegan O’Brien: I was expecting a few hundred students to walk out, and over 3,000 showed up! That’s pretty incredible. What did you guys think of the demonstration?
Jahi Spaloss: I think it was a beautiful turnout. It really showed how much integrity our students have and how much they really care about their education. It shows that they will fight back.
Harry Saunders: I’m really, really happy that everybody showed support for us. To be honest, I only expected four or five hundred people, but the whole city came, and that got me fired up. We need to be upset. We need to be irrational. We can’t be disorganized. We have to be united and show solidarity. We have to have equity. We have to show that we need this because it’s our education that’s at stake here and this is really important to us. If these cuts go through it will be so detrimental to our future. I want to reiterate that I really love all the support we saw, it’s pushing everything forward and that’s what we need to do.