Today is Valentine's Day, but we wear red for other reasons: we’re angry. And powerful. On Wednesday, February 7th, St. Stephen’s parents were a sea of red in the first two rows of the School Committee meeting. One-by-one, they were called up to give testimony. Each had their own twist on a common demand: ask the Mayor for more funding for public schools.
Karina focused her testimony on students with special needs: “¿Cómo podemos escoger entre terapia del habla y terapia de alimentación, cuando se necesitan los dos?”, she asked. “How can we choose between speech therapy and feeding therapy, when we need both?”
Isabel spoke of her own challenge getting an education growing up in a small town in the Dominican Republic, where she would climb on milk crates to see over the walls of the schoolhouse and listen in on the lessons. “Yo quiero dar a mi hija un futuro mejor,” she said. “I want to give my daughter a better future.”
Mayra was the last of our parents to speak, but her testimony was perhaps the most fitting. “Cuando mis niños iniciaron la escuela me sentí muy contenta porque tenia programación en espanol e ingles. Pero en este momento por el presupuesto, sabemos que faltan fondos para todos los programas que necesitamos.” “When my children started school I felt happy because they were learning Spanish and English. But now because of the budget, we are missing funds for all the programs we need.”
Indeed, it was clear that the Boston Public Schools are sorely lacking when it comes to supporting students and families who speak languages other than English. Despite two weeks notice and a promise of interpretation from the School Committee, there was no interpreting equipment to be found. After a big fuss from us, several assistant superintendents scurrying all around the building, and the interpreter standing helpless at the back of the room, the District was unable to find any equipment.
So despite the fact that BPS proudly states on its website that, “Nearly one in every two students speaks a language other than English at home,” we were left asking ourselves if they truly care about these parent’s voices.
But I’m pretty sure these parent are going to make their voices heard anyways. Loud and clear.
By Ariel Branz, Senior Parent Organizer. To get involved, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.