Thursday, April 8, 2010

Councilor Tobin says school assignment system needs to be fixed

City Councilor John Tobin, who represents West Roxbury, Jamaica Plain, and parts of Roslindale and Mission Hill, had the pleasure of going through the BPS lottery for K1 with the rest of us this year.

And his child is unassigned.

He writes in the Allston-Brighton Tab, that he and his spouse were "outraged and disappointed," like other unassigned parents. "We believe in public education. We entered the BPS lottery with high hopes and were excited about our choices. We were not looking for special treatment. We wanted a seat in a quality school near our home."

In the past, Tobin has advocated for more K1 seats in the city. In 2004, when BPS was reexamining its assignment policy, he asked BPS "to increase the number of students allowed to walk to neighborhood schools from 50 to 100 percent. Once local kids had a chance to enroll, the remaining seats would be opened to children citywide." Obviously, that didn't happen. We're still at 50% walk zone.
Now, he calls for transparency in the lottery system, like holding the lottery in public, similar to what charter schools do. He also calls for a return to neighborhood schools (The city currently spends about $77 million on busing students around the city):

"The simple truth is the assignment system must change if we want families to stay in Boston. I am again calling on Mayor Thomas Menino to create a system that allows children to go to school in their own neighborhood. In the meantime, the Tobins and many other Boston families will go back to the drawing board and develop a back-up plan."

I wish his family luck and hope some positive change can come from his experience.


Michael Pahre said...

Councilor Tobin is mixing up two very different things: (1) neighborhood school assignments and (2) limited number of seats in K1 schools.

He is not guaranteed a K1 seat because there are simply not enough of them in BPS. If he doesn't like this fact, he should take advantage of his position to fund K1 better -- and cut cops or libraries or firemen or whatever to make room in the budget to do so. It's his job to fix it, not to complain about it!

But I can't understand why he thinks this has anything to do with neighborhood schools -- unless, of course, he lives in some well-to-do neighborhood that has enough K1 seats for its 1-mile radius West Roxbury kids, and would be happy screwing the poor kids in other neighborhoods who don't.

If Councilor Tobin doesn't like it that BPS is short on K1 seats, he should fix the universality issue for K1 seats, not try to grab the few seats for him and his West Roxbury neighbors.

Anonymous said...

I agree that he is dealing with two issues- and like it or not there just aren't enough k1 seats for everyone in Boston. But go to any suburb and they don't offer any k1 seats for free as Boston does, so the lottery system is what it is in terms of pre-kindergarten.

That being said, my daughter is in the walk zone for not 1, not 2, not 3, but 4 schools, all which were listed high on our list and we did not receive a spot in any of them- instead she will cost the taxpayers money and be bused to a school 15 minutes away (and was lower on our list than ANY of the schools listed). That is ridiculous. The lottery should most definitely be transparent- I don't really understand why it isn't...

FYI- do you know Brookline doesn't offer busing at all (except when Special Education services require it)?? How much money do you think that saves the town? How many programs do you think are funded by the money they save?

Theresa said...

I think John Tobin is and has been trying to fix it. There aren't enough K1 seats and I realize that other towns/cities don't offer them, but if you don't get your K1 assignment - you probably don't get K2. That's where the real problem is. I'm not thrilled that we didn't get assigned, but would be less so if I thought we had a chance next year.

Anonymous said...

I know of plenty of people who have not gotten K1 assignment and got an assignment the following year for K2. I personally want the choice to be able to apply to send my child to any school in my zone, not just my walk zone schools. There are many great schools in other areas besides West Roxbury, some of which start at K2. Yes, good schools that are not the Lydon and the Kilmer! Imagine..

Anonymous said...

He is definately mixing up two issues but I agree with him on the lottery issue. It rubs me the wrong way that whether your child gets into a good school is a game of chance. The solution to having some poor schools isn't to allocate all students evenly accross those poor schools; the solution is to fix the poor schools by making them comparable to the good schools on issues that the City can control (funding, facility quality, teacher quality, programs, etc.)