June 8, 2021

Boston Teacher Perspectives: How Should BPS Spend Nearly $400 million in ARP Money?

As part of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan (ARP) signed into law by President Joe Biden, Boston Public Schools (BPS) has received nearly $400 million in one-time funding. BPS has wide latitude about how to spend this money, and has created a task force that will embark on a listening tour to collect community input on this decision.

Toplines: What Do Teachers Want?

At Educators for Excellence Boston (E4E-Boston), we work to elevate educator voices in policy conversations that impact their classrooms. Given the monumental and consequential decision to be made about these funds, we reached out to our membership of educators to get their take on how this money should be spent. Here were their top priorities:

  • Adopt improved curriculum options for schools, including racially and culturally inclusive frameworks
  • Make improvements to school buildings and address other infrastructure needs
  • Overhaul professional development to make it more relevant and with takeaways that are easily implemented, including antiracism and implicit bias training
  • Create a more robust pipeline and strategy to recruit and retain diverse teachers
  • Design evidence-based interventions to address unfinished learning during the pandemic period, primarily focused on strategies embedded in the regular school day

A Deeper Dive 

Educators provided their rationale for why they thought these were the right things for BPS to fund with this one-time source of money:

  • On the need for improved curriculum options: “I would like to advocate for the creation of an inclusive and effective curriculum in our schools, as well as a clear selection process for that curriculum. The research is clear, when students see themselves reflected in curriculum they excel at higher rates than when they do not feel connected to what they are learning.”
  • On the need for infrastructure improvements: “The past year has hammered home how our 80-year old buildings are in desperate need of updates. Can you imagine struggling with balancing the needs of students while also teaching with the window open in the winter because many buildings lack a modern HVAC system? We need to bring our school buildings into the 21st century.”
  • On the need for overhauled professional development: “Professional development feels cookie-cutter and  is not differentiated by teacher skill and expertise. It also does not consistently provide a feedback loop to monitor progress toward improvement. We need to fund a better system, including opportunities to learn from highly-skilled educators from across the district.”

Next Steps

Educators for Excellence Boston calls on the BPS Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Commission to consider the priorities above when making their decision later this month about how to spend ARP funds. Educators are the ones who will have to carry out whatever decision is made, and their perspective must be included. We have a once in a generation chance to make a difference for students, let’s make sure educators have a seat at the table.