METCO lobbies for lift in new budget
Hundreds of students and parents roamed the halls of the State House on Tuesday to ask state lawmakers to support increased funding for the largest school integration program in the country.
Advocates want to bump up the Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity’s (METCO) line item amount in the fiscal year 2024 budget, despite Gov. Maura Healey’s recommendation to level-fund the program. Healey’s version of the budget also does not renew a one-year $500,000 earmark that METCO says it needs to implement a new racial equity system.
METCO is a “voluntary school desegregation” program, which sends 3,103 Boston area students to 33 districts in surrounding suburban communities known for their highachieving public schools. Of Boston-area METCO participating students, 64% are Black, 26% are Hispanic and 3% are Asian.
“METCO was started 57 years ago, before many of us were even thought of, but we know that they were fighting for racial integration and discrimination was high,” METCO caucus co-chair Sen. Liz Miranda of Boston said to launch the program’s Beacon Hill lobbying day on Tuesday. “In 2023 those things still exist … We have huge housing and education segregation still in the city of Boston, where 85 percent of the student population is Black or brown. We know that kids need a chance; kids need a choice, and METCO gives them a choice.”
The state-funded program is asking legislators for $32.2 million in the fiscal 2024 budget — a $2.8 million increase over last year, which they say will help keep up with inflationary costs and expand the program.
With the requested 11.4% increase over this year’s appropriation, METCO says it could meet increased expenses associated with retaining staff and keeping up with increased bus and travel costs, and expand enrollment to six new partner schools, adding an additional 116 seats for Bostonarea students.
Healey recommended a $28.9 million appropriation in fiscal 2023, compared to the $29.4 million METCO received in fiscal 2023.
In 2022, Boston Public Schools had a 76% graduation rate. METCO participants had a 95% graduation rate.