Teen organizers delivered a loud and clear message to Northeastern University last week with a banner drop in the Curry Student Center. As the banner unfurled over the 2nd story ledge, students asked those present in the Campus Center to join them in demanding that Northeastern University pay the $13 million it had committed to as part of the PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) program.
PILOT stands for Payment In Lieu of Taxes. It is a program that compensates the government for tax revenue lost due to tax-exempt ownership. In this case, we are asking the wealthiest non-profits in Boston (mostly hospitals or universities) to pay the amount of property taxes the city has assessed as a fair payment. If Northeastern and other Boston universities pay their PILOT fees, it could lead to a fully-funded public education and enable students enrolled in Boston Public Schools (BPS) get the sort of education that would enable them to attend Northeastern or a college of similar caliber.
At St. Stephen’s Youth Programs (SSYP), we care about PILOT because we want our schools to be fully funded. Most schools in Boston do not have enough money to cover the basic resources necessary to provide students with an adequate education. Wealthy universities like Harvard and Northeastern have not complied with their commitment to pay the city their full PILOT amount. Students who graduate from BPS are not prepared to attend those universities because of the classes and other things that are missing from their public high school education. SSYP is joining with Boston Teachers Union, BEJA, and other organizations who are asking for those universities to be our partners in fully funding public education so that Boston’s students can succeed.
PILOT would benefit all our BPS schools because it would increase the pool of resources funding our public education system. This would mean Boston’s young people could attend schools that have the budgets they need to deliver a the kind of education our students and communities deserve.
The St. Stephen’s Community Organizers held a workshop to educate community members about PILOT at the Blackstone School and with the YLC program at SSYP by playing a game that simulated the kinds of heart-breaking budget decisions facing school leadership, like whether to pay for a full time school nurse or maintain the aging building or sufficiently fund support for English Language Learners or students with IEPs. Middle schoolers and MLK Day of action volunteers alike were frustrated by the impossible task of funding a school’s essential requirements on a very limited budget.
Many of our city’s institutions that claim to care about education. To join us in pressuring these universities to contribute the the vitality of our public education, please contact SSYP teen organizing coordinator Sarah O’Connor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Angie Hyppolite, Valentina Pedroza Munoz, Christopher Morales, Nikkia Jean Charles, MIchelle Mejia and Ekran Sharif, Teen Organizers