My letter to the Revere City Council and School Committee concerning education budgets

To the Mayor; to Ward 6 Councilor, Mr. Serino; to the Councilors-at-Large, and to the School Committee:

I am writing in support of a motion pending before the City Council to reinstate Whelan School educators Heather Kantrowitz, Katie Cochrane, and Victoria DeVincent, who were recently non-renewed. All three held vital positions which will surely be filled in some capacity this fall – two elementary school teaching positions, and one K-5 counselor – and all three had exemplary reputations with students and parents. 

Residents of our community have consistently supported labor and collective bargaining rights, and we must continue to do so in this instance. I appreciate that many of you have been among those who have championed labor rights and hope that your support will extend to Revere’s educators. In light of the budget crunch Revere will face in coming years, it would be self-defeating for the city to rack up legal fees in a protracted fight with Revere educators – especially ones with such positive reviews, occupying positions that must be filled. 

Beyond Monday’s council motion, I also want to go a step further and ask the Council to make sure ongoing budget conversations in the coming weeks focus on how we can prevent cuts to education, both in FY21 and beyond – especially in light of DESE’s guidelines for fall school reopening. 

The guidelines laid out are incredibly staff-intensive, and if anything, will require new hires. Additionally, economically disadvantaged students in our community are particularly vulnerable to disruptions in learning caused by the COVID-19 crisis, and need the support of teachers and school counselors to get back on track academically. Protecting Revere Public Schools from any layoffs should be our city’s first budget priority. 

All across the Commonwealth, cities and towns are reckoning with big, long-term questions about budget priorities, and how we can shift our focus away from outdated policies around incarceration and punishment, and toward policies that invest in and support youth. We have not really seen a similar conversation here in our community yet during the budget process so far. That needs to change. 

As a community with a high percentage of low-income students and students of color, our local officials should also be leading the charge on state-level conversations about how to make public education more well-rounded and child-centered, and pushing the state legislature to adopt forward-thinking budgets that provide the revenue needed to center education and community investment. 

I know these types of processes can and should be deliberative, and I also know that much of our budget fate is not directly within the city’s control. But these conversations need to start somewhere – and this moment of reckoning in terms of both our budget and our priorities seems like a good time to start.

I appreciate your urgent attention to these matters, and hope for your continued support for public education. Our public school system has been a consistent point of pride for our city, but we can only keep it strong by properly investing in it, and by maintaining positive relationships with those who serve our students. 

Sincerely,

Joe Gravellese

37 Sweeney Ave #2

Revere 

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