I have a great fear that the Boston Public Schools (BPS) are going to be torn apart by a federal investigation. I rue the failure by anyone in authority in the City of Boston, its schools, or its media to object to these outsiders who are on the cusp of destroying what many have labored hard over a dozen or so years to build up.
The same group that brought about the busing debacle, the NAACP and ACLU, seek to again use the federal government to interfere with those hard at work in the BPS. Their interest has never been in the school children of Boston. They merely seek self-aggrandizement. They set the houses of others on fire while sitting comfortably in front of their own home fires.
Using less than five specific incidents that may have occurred over several years at Boston Latin School (BLS) among the 2600 students who gather there each school day and adding many unsupported generalities they have convinced the Carmen Ortiz, the Boston U.S. attorney, to do something that is not usually done unless a court case has been filed. Her actions based on such sparse allegations are unprecedented.
There are things to keep in mind about the BPS. It is not the same system that existed in the 1970s when over 90% of the teachers, principals and staff were white. At first take that may sound a little unbalanced. It isn’t when you consider that in 1960 the white population exceeded 90% while the blacks numbered 9.1% and the employees of the BPS would reflect the city’s population. In 1970 it was 81.8% white and 16.3% black.
Nor is the City of Boston the Boston of 20 years ago. In 1990 Boston was 62.8% white and 25.6% black. Now it is approximately 53% white, 24% black, 17% Hispanic and 8% Asian. A look at what is happening in the BPS system today compared to twenty years ago is set out here. It has been improving year in and year out. Right now is about the worst time for it to be subject to federal interference which is about to begin.
While the black population remains steady at around 22 to 24% the 2014 year statistics of the BPS shows that: 21% of the teachers, 38% of the principals; and 32% of the central office are black. The black student population is 35% black.
The corresponding figures for Hispanics is teachers 10%, principals 11% and staff 13%. Hispanic students representing 40%; for whites is 62% teachers, 48% principals and 47% staff. White students represent 13% of the BPS. In considering that no teaching staff will reflect the present day because many may have worked for several decades it is a well-balanced school system that slowly reflects the students being educated.
When Judge Garrity first started examining the BPS he was dealing with a 1971 enrollment of 61% (59,300) whites and 32% (30,600) blacks. It was right after a significant increase in the black population going from 63,1655 (9.1%) in 1960 to 104,707 (16.3%) in 1970. As noted in 1970 the white population was 524,709 (81.8%) but by 1980 after the turmoil it was 393,937 (70%). As shown by the numbers of employees in the BPS the school system has slowly kept up with the changes.
By any objective measurements it would seem the BPS is sensitive to racial matters and the civil rights of all students. Those who have been superintendents, including two black women, have given particular attention to ensuring that an equal and excellent educational opportunity for all?
The five-page letter does not just go after BLS. It alleges: “a broader history of racial insensitivity, harassment and discrimination that has existed for many years at BLS and possibly through the Boston Public Schools.” The objective evidence shows otherwise.
Boston has three examinations schools: Boston Latin Academy, Boston Latin School and the John D. O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Science where admission is based entirely on a student’s grades and test scores from the Independent Schools Entrance Exam. It has several other high schools. To get a sense of the education I added to the exam schools seven others I remember: English High, Jeremiah E. Burke, Dorchester High now called Dorchester Academy, Brighton High, East Boston High, Charlestown High. I planned to add South Boston High but found it no longer existed.
Strange that other sections of the city have high schools named after them except Southie. Upon further research I found it is now Excel High School. That no one seemed to complain about the change tells much about the state of affairs. Sadly, the old Southie/Eastie rivalry is ended after 98 games. We will now begin the Excel/Eastie game, a name that truly lacks the old pizzazz.
After I assembled the ten schools I examined the backgrounds of the valedictorians of each school over the past three years. For the exam schools three were born in Vietnam, two in China, one the Dominican Republic, and three in the USA, one black and two whites.
The other seven schools had as valedictorians three born in China, three from Vietnam, two from the Dominican Republic, one from Pakistan, El Salvador, Morocco, Peru, Cape Verdi, Nigeria and Haiti. Of the six born in the United States, two were Hispanic, two were black, one Vietnamese and one white. Almost all planned to go on to top colleges.
The Asians seem over represented in the top level while it seems the rest is an eclectic gathering from all parts of the world including every race. Only one group, the blacks, are claiming “racial insensitivity, harassment and discrimination.” Exclude the 11 kids born in China and Vietnam who have English as a second language of the 19 remaining 8 would be considered black and three white which approximates their percentages in the student body.
Why before launching an investigation did the Boston U.S. attorney not examine these facts? Shouldn’t she have sat down with city officials, the BPS people, the BLS staff and informally looked at what was happening first? It seems extraordinary to put a public school system under a federal investigation within one week of receiving a half-baked request to do. Something is clearly wrong.