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BPS students planning followup walkout this week over school funding

Student leader expects the protest will be twice as large as the massive one in March.

More than a thousand students walked out of school and rallied in Boston in March Metro File

Boston students are planning another walkout this week, a follow-up to a protest earlier this year that saw more than a thousand students leave class and march through the streets over budget cuts.

Organizers said Sunday they expect this week's demonstration are expecting it to be twice as large as the one in March, according to 18-year-old Jahi Spaloss, a leader of the protests.

“This time it’s been much better organized and students have been encouraging each other to go,” Spaloss, a senior at Boston Green Academy, said in an interview. “And not only that, but we’ll be more well-informed than last time.”

The students plan to walk out of class at 1 p.m., he said, then meet at City Hall at 2 p.m., where Spaloss said he would be among students who plan to testify at a meeting of Boston’s City Council.

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He and other students oppose what they call the underfunding of Boston Public Schools, cuts to programming and the possibility of closing or merging schools in the city.

Boston's School Committee approved the district's $1 billion budget proposal on March 23.

It increases funding for some programs while reducing funding for others, including for special education. Mayor Marty Walsh and Superintendent Tommy Chang defended those "hard choices" in a Boston Globe op-ed a few days after the School Committee's vote.

In the lead-up to Tuesday's protest, organizers have been waging a social media campaign.

A video posted to Facebook on Sunday to rally supporters had been shared nearly 150 times by the early evening.

At least 1,000 people said on a Facebook event page that they would attend the walkout.

Spaloss insists the protest is being organized by young people, firing back at criticisms of the protest lobbed at students by Mayor Mary Walsh, who suggested the young organizers had been helped and egged on by adults.

“Ninety-nine percent of the people who are helping out with this are students,” Spaloss said.

He said some unionized teachers would be at the rally in solidarity, and said they would also play a peacekeeping role in the crowd.

The protest in March had support from both the Boston Education Justice Alliance and the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, both of which helped promote the event.

Student leaders will also be walking among protesters in groups of two to keep an eye on protesters, he said, and legal advocates from the National Lawyers Guild will be there to observe any interactions between the students and police.

In addition to online organizing, students have been holding regular meetings to plan out the massive rally and to arm protesters with as much information about the state of Boston Public Schools as possible, Spaloss said.

“This is not just an excuse to get out of school early,” he said, “but to get your voices to be heard.”

In an interview on Monday, Walsh again shared his concerns that adults were influencing student protesters behind the scenes.

"I just get concerned that some of the people that are giving them the talking points on what to say - I mean I understand kids do know what they're talking about, and they certainly knew what they were talking about last time - they're talking about a very localized reduction in some of the line items we're talking about now," Walsh said.

He also said he commends students for advocating for the cause, but that he would "love to see them stay in school that day" and share their input at another time.

"There's plenty of opportunity to come out and talk after school," Walsh said. "Whether it's in the City Council chambers or the State House, to advocate on behalf of public education money."

 
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