In tonight's State of the City address, Mayor Menino will announce a $1 million program "to coordinate the programming of schools, branch libraries, and community centers to boost test scores and graduation rates in the school system while decreasing dropouts and youth violence."
The City clearly isn't awash in extra money these days, but it how much can $1M program do to improve the services of these city departments that will spend $830 million this year?
Boston Public Schools: $782,535,360
Boston Library Dept: $28,840,631
Boston Centers for Youth & Families: $20,201,040
Another way of thinking about it - there are 87,000 school-age children in Boston ranging from nursery school to grade 12. $1M divided by 87,000 is $11.50 for each child in Boston.
You can't buy much with $11.50 and unfortunately this "miracle proposal" does not seem to propose any new services or programs. The Globe explains that a "school that had to cut music or art classes because of a lack of funds could ask the neighborhood community center or library to offer the class." Conceivably a school principal could already make this request, but how will the community center or library pay for the music and art class? City-wide, one million dollars is not going to provide too many art, music, or sports programs.
Anyway, having schools unable to afford art and music and outsources these programs to the neighborhood library or community center doesn't seem like much of a solution. The real solution would be giving the school the money to reinstate the music and art classes! The time, logistics, and cost to get kids from one school to somewhere else and back to school is alone enough to make clear why these programs during the school day should be offered in schools, not somewhere else.
For some historical perspective, the major announcement in last year's State of the City address (links for: press release, speech, video) was the City's commitment to spend $6M to restore the Strand Theater in Dorchester. What's the deal with this year's major initiative being so much smaller than last year's? If this is any indication of our city's fiscal problems we better see some huge new revenue real soon.
Menino hopes to work a new 'Boston Miracle' for children - The Boston Globe