Boston Public School students stage second walkout to protest funding
Turnout smaller than predicted after school officials warn students they would be marked absent if they left class.
For the second time this year, Boston students walked out of class, ignoring warnings about unexcusesd absences to take to the streets Tuesday to call for an increase in funding for public schools.
Around 200 protesters left their classrooms around 1 p.m. Tuesday and converged on City Hall Plaza in the early afternoon. Despite predictions of a massive turnout, the demonstration was much smaller than the walkout in March, when thousands took part.
But the students who showed up had strong words for city officials.
"We will not take these budget cuts lying down!" shouted 16-year-old Isaac Hoeh, of the Boston Latin School, one of the many students who gave speeches amplified by a pair of speakers pointed at City Hall.
"Hey all my people!" they chanted. "I got a story! To tell the whole wide world this is students' territory!"
Fania Joseph, a student at the Boston Community Leadership Academy who was wearing an orange vest identfying here asa "peace marshall," said there was a lot to be concerned about at her school and in the district at large.
The student-teacher ratio is too high, she said, and the school has lost teachers and had funding for its library reduced. She worries about the impact cuts to special education will have on her peers, she said.
Joseph took aim at Mayor Marty Walsh, who has said he believes students are being misled by grown-ups and special interest groups.
Walsh repeated that claim in an interview with Boston Herald Radio on Tuesday. "There's no question in my mind that there's adults behind this," he said, without elaborating on who they are.
But Joseph said she's been studying the issues on her own.
"We're not misinformed," she said of Walsh. "He's misinformed."
Adult volunteers and education advocates at the rally handed out snacks, water and stickers from a folding table. Others helped of-age students register to vote. Parents, some holding signs, stood among protesters.
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Mom Maria Christina Blanco — clutching a giant poster reading "Full funding 4 BCLA & BPS" — said she worried about cuts and programming changes at the BCLA, where her daughter is a 10th-grader.
"I want her to have the same opportunities she had when she applied," she said
Later, dozens of students packed a meeting of Boston's City Council, where a hearing on the budget as it relates to student health and well-being was scheduled. Many of the young protesters signed up to speak during a public comment period.
Among them was 17-year-old Harry Saunders, a student at Boston's Snowden International School.
"We are going to keep fighting until we get the education we were promised," Saunders said in an interview. "We're not just a bunch of kids."
Councilor Tito Jackson, who has publicly supported the protesting students and invited them to the hearing, said he was "proud" of their advocacy.
"I for one am very proud of each and every one of the people who are exactly what we need to see, which is leadership in their generation," City Councilor Tito Jackson said at the hearing, speaking to the students.
Before the protest, school officials urged students not to leave class and warned would-be protesters thatthose who do would be marked absent, and also promised to send automated voice messages to their parents.
Walsh has defended the proposed $1 billion school budget, which the Boston School Commitee approved in March. It includes a $13.5 million funding increase over the previous year, but cuts spending for special education.
A booth here encourages of-age students to register to vote. pic.twitter.com/dJhvdOYW6q— Spencer Buell (@MetroSpencer) May 17, 2016