Underfunding our public schools exacerbates the opportunity and achievement gap and perpetuates the school-to-prison pipeline. When schools are unable to afford art, music or guidance and wraparound supports, students are more likely to become disengaged and act out, resulting in disciplinary action like suspension or expulsion. Students and schools alike suffer. This is why the passage of the Student Opportunity Act, which will provide $1.5 billion in additional funding to Massachusetts schools over the next seven years, is a historic achievement and a victory for students all across the Commonwealth.
On behalf of the Boston Student Advisory Council and Youth on Board, we want to thank our Massachusetts political leaders for taking action and voting favorably on legislation that will help remedy the lack of funding that plagues many of our inner-city and rural school districts. Thank you for keeping your promise to your constituents. We also want to thank Governor Charlie Baker, who signed the legislation into law this past November.
However, the biggest thank you goes to the amazing youth of our state for their relentless advocacy for more school funding over the years. Without the cooperation and advocacy of thousands of young people all across the state, the PROMISE Act and eventually the Student Opportunity Act, would not have been introduced and prioritized. The student-led Boston walkouts in 2016, which saw close to 3,000 students risk disciplinary action and even arrest to protest drastic budget cuts, created an urgent incentive and brought much-needed recognition to an issue affecting many public schools, especially those serving predominantly low-income students and students of color. Without the determination and commitment of Massachusetts youth to organize and mobilize, we are sure this legislation would not have passed.
Now that the Student Opportunity Act has become law, students need to be at the table that decides how the funds are allocated and student priorities must be considered. We must prioritize funding for social and emotional support. We must prioritize funding for menstrual products and toiletries in school restrooms. We must prioritize funding functional heating and cooling systems. And we must prioritize funding for Special Education and English Language Learners so that all students receive a rich and adequate public education.
While we give kudos to our Massachusetts political leaders for passing this important legislation, we know that the hard work is not done. Massachusetts students challenge our public and district officials to bring it home by ensuring that the funds are allocated properly and equitably across the Commonwealth. The lives and futures of students are on the line.
The Boston Student Advisory Council is the primary vehicle for student's voice and youth engagement across the Boston Public Schools. BSAC plays a key role in advising the School Committee, working with school leaders on student climate issues and informing students of their rights
BSAC is a social justice program that develops students' professional and activist skills by way of academic support, training and exposure to engagement opportunities which, in our modest opinion, is the heart and soul of the program because it puts young people ahead of the ball as young professionals.
If you are interested in learning more about BSAC please visit us on Facebook @BSACbuzz and/or come join us for one of our weekly Monday youth meetings at the Bruce Bolling Building at 2300 Washington St. from 4-6 p.m.