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Hundreds join Boston student walkout

BPS protesters leave class, march to Beacon Hill calling for increased education funding

Hundreds of Boston students walked out of school Monday and marched to Beacon Hill to protest millions in budget cuts.

Flocks of students numbering more than a thousand boarded buses and trains, hoisted signs in the street and posed on the steps of the Massachusetts State House, beginning a densely packed rally at the bandstand in Boston Common around noon.

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Student organizers said they were calling for increased funding for education in Boston, citing fears that the budget for public schools in the city would see cuts.

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The demonstrators also oppose lifting the cap on the number of charter schools for the state.

Students and their parents have been told by BPS Superintendent Tommy Chang that those who walked out of class would be marked absent.

“Education shouldn't be something that's just an option when you want to cut budgets. Education is the success of tomorrow," saidFaridat Dangbe, 16, a junior at Brighton High.

Snowden International High School sophomoreJailyn Lopen said students were initially encouraged to write letters as a form of protest.

"But we've seen that nothing was happening if we wrote letters," she said. "So we decided to take a stand as students and come together to get our voices to be heard.”

Marchers later brought their message to Faneuil Hall, where Mayor Marty Walsh and Gov. Charlie Baker were meeting for an unrelated news conference.

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Protesters chanted, "SOS! Save our schools," as the politicians walked to their cars. Walsh waved and shook a few demonstrators' hands.

"I commend them for their advocacy," Walsh told the State House News Service, referring to protesters. He added that he did, however, wish they had stayed in school for the day. "We still have a ways to go. We've made a large increase in the school budget this year, and we're going to continue to work to close that divide."

Boston plans to appropriate $1.27 billion for schools in fiscal year 2017, which is up $13.5 million over this year, according to the News Service. State aid in Massachusetts, meanwhile, is slated to inch up 1.6 percent next fiscal year.

A spokeswoman for Walsh told the News Service Monday that claims the budget had already been slashed were inaccurate and based on out-of-date information.

"Mayor Walsh has increased funding for Boston Public Schools by nearly $90 million since he took office, including an increase of $13.5 million for the upcoming school year, despite stagnant state education aid," Laura Oggeri, a Walsh spokeswoman, said in a statement. "The increased appropriation in his first two years was more than the increase of all other city departmental appropriations combined."

Chang in January said the district faced a $50 million budget shortfall next fiscal year and proposed a package of cuts from the BPS central office and schools themselves.

The demonstrations went on mostly without incident, with a few exceptions.

Police responded to Boston Common early Monday afternoon, where one police officer told a Metro reporter there had been a fight.

BPD spokeswoman Rachel McGuire could not confirm whether there had been an arrest.

There were also reports of arrests in nearby Downtown Crossing amid tensions between youth and police there.

Asked about arrests during the walkout, MBTA Transit Police spokesman Lt. Richard Sullivan said via email that he believed TPD officers had been involved with three arrests.

Police anticipated the possibility of large crowds following word about the planned walkout, McGuire said.

"It was a huge number of kids and we always have resources on hand," she said. "We did plan for adequate resources."

 
 
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