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Civil rights groups: early start times won’t produce equity

Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller is the former senior editor of the Bay State Banner. He has written for the Banner since 1988.... VIEW BIO
Civil rights groups: early start times won’t produce equity
School officials and city councilors discussed what efforts are taken to support struggling schools, a number of which face budget reductions, and how far targeted extra funding goes.

Amid the firestorm of protest from parents over the Boston Public Schools’ planned changes to elementary school start times, Superintendent Tommy Chang invoked the concept of racial equity to justify the move.

But civil rights activists are not having it. In a letter sent to the news media last week, NAACP Boston Branch President Tanisha Sullivan and Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Education Project Director Matt Cregor argue that the BPS plan, which would roll back start times for many elementary schools to 7:15 a.m., would actually undermine equity.

“Parents of color are disproportionately in lower-wage jobs, and are less likely to have the flexibility needed to build their schedules around a school day that ends at 1:15 or 1:55, let alone pay for any resulting need in afterschool care,” the letter reads.

In a letter posted on the BPS website officials underscore their stated intention to maximize the number of high school students starting after 8 a.m. and minimize the number of elementary school students ending after 4 p.m. while at the same time saving money and increasing equity.

“To meet these objectives and improve academic outcomes for all students requires parity in the process of selecting start and end times for schools across the city,” reads a letter sent to Chang by BPS Senior Equity Manager Steven Chen.

But NAACP Boston Branch President Tanisha Sullivan says what the school department is pushing — increasing the number of all children starting school at 7:30 or before — will not make the system more equitable.

“Parity and equity are not the same thing,” she told the Banner. “This is the problem.”

In their letter, Cregor and Sullivan argue that parents who work low-wage jobs, as do many parents of color, would likely have less flexibility to adjust their schedules around a school day that ends at 1:15 and less money to afford child care, should it be available.

“This raises significant question as to whether there is a common understanding between the city and civil rights groups on what equity is and what the implementation of equity policies looks like,” Sullivan told the Banner.

In addition to the NAACP and Lawyers’ Committee, grassroots parent activists are calling on Walsh and Chang to rescind or delay implementation of the change in start times. Sunday, a group of parent activists in West Roxbury demonstrated as Walsh was participating in a tree lighting event.

After being accosted by parents, Walsh told the Boston Herald he would consider a “potential delay” of the change in start times. “Everything is on the table,” the Herald quoted.

This evening, a four-day series of ten community meetings kicks off, with BPS officials slated to hear community opinion on the changes in West Roxbury and East Boston. BPS officials appear to be soliciting feedback on a somewhat accelerated schedule in advance of the Jan. 3 beginning of the school enrollment process for the 2018 school year. Here’s the meeting schedule:

Monday, Dec. 18

Roche Family Community Center – 1716 Centre St., West Roxbury, 6 to 8 p.m.

East Boston High School Cafeteria – 86 White St., East Boston, 6 to 8 p.m.

Tuesday, Dec. 19

Warren Prescott K-8 School – 50 West School St., Charlestown, 6 to 8 p.m.

Mattapan Early Elementary School – 100 Hebron St., Mattapan, 6 to 8 p.m.

James F. Condon K-8 School – 200 D St., South Boston, 6 to 8 p.m.

Wednesday, Dec. 20

McKeon Post – 4 Hill Top St., Dorchester, 6 to 8 p.m.

ABCD – 565 Warren St., Roxbury, 6 to 8 p.m.

Blackstone Community Center – BCYF – 50 West Brookline St., Boston, 6 to 8 p.m.

Curley K-8 School – 493 Centre St., Jamaica Plain, 6 to 8 p.m.

Thursday, Dec. 21

Brighton High School – 25 Warren St., Brighton, 6 to 8 p.m.