By Brooke Lewis
Boston University Press Service
BOSTON – Boston mayoral candidates met this weekend at the Museum of African American History for a forum presented by the Black Joy Project. Saturday’s debate between Annissa Essaibi George and Michelle Wu centered on the issues facing black men and boys, including education.
Essaibi George, a former teacher at East Boston High School, is currently chair of the education committee. Wu did not make education a focal point of his career, but had already put in place a comprehensive plan for Boston public schools. Both candidates have children in the Boston public school system.
Moderator Jean Barros, who himself tried to run for mayor this year, asked the two candidates questions about BPS policies.
The first focused on Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) and special education, a relevant issue as black students are placed in significantly separate classrooms – indicating worse results – at twice the rate. rate of white students, according to a report commissioned by BPS.
Essaibi George used the question as an opportunity to discuss issues with significantly separate classes. She also highlighted the value of schools as a method of delivering mental health services, as well as her goal of ensuring a full-time social worker in every BPS school. Finally, she spoke of families navigating the special education system.
âWe have to make sure that we work with these families, giving them the means to ensure that they have a full place at the table,â said Essaibi George. “Too often, these conversations and this work isolate families who lack the basics.”
Wu called for a “whole-child and whole-community approach to create an anti-racist school system.” She said she plans to achieve it, in part, with a more diverse faculty. The need for more black teachers has been recognized by scholars for decades. The Biden administration recently issued an executive order with a plan to increase teacher diversity.
Wu also noted the relationship between IEPs and discipline in schools., as well as how a student’s race can affect how they are disciplined.
On discipline, Barros noted the higher suspension rates for black and Latino boys and asked candidates how they would work to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline.
Both candidates advocated for restorative justice practices in schools.
âSuspension is not the answer,â Essaibi George said. âWhen we suspend children, we take them away from the supports they need, and then weâ¦ ask ourselves why our children end up in the criminal justice system.â
Wu noted that she recently sponsored an Ordinance on Monitoring and Information Sharing, which aims to reduce the information that school resource managers can share.
Additionally, Barros asked how applicants would improve black students’ access to Grade 1 schools. The Schools Quality Framework, which places schools in one of four grades, was implemented to empower families. more information on school performance. Black students have the fewest Level 1 seats available, according to a Boston Area Research Initiative study.
Both candidates said the answer was not necessarily to increase access to Tier 1 seats, but to ensure that every seat in the BPS is “a seat we can be proud of,” Wu said.
âEvery seat, classroom, school and school community should be of the highest standard of quality and experience for our children,â said Essaibi George.
Both applicants mentioned the importance of investing in grade 2, 3 and 4 schools.
âAs we look to spend our $ 1.3 billion budget, what percentage of every dollar goes to student services? Â»Asked Essaibi Georges.
âIt’s about making sure that we invest in the facilitiesâ¦ the schools with the fewest resources, where enrollment is declining, are also the buildings where we see unacceptable conditions,â Wu said.
Wu also mentioned his intention to work with a student cabinet, invest in vocational training in schools and close the gap for early childhood education.
Essaibi George also touched on early childhood education, especially early literacy, a big part of his approach to equity in education.
âIf we get this early literacy right, we will be successful for our children for the rest of their lives. ”
Boston’s mayoral election will take place on November 2, 2021. Find your polling station here and learn more about the candidates’ position on the issues here.