We are writing to provide Newton residents with facts about the METCO program, explain our perspective on how the METCO program is beneficial to our children and broader community, and to address factual errors in a Perspectives piece submitted by the Newton Taxpayers Association in December.
The Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity (METCO) is a state-funded educational program designed to eliminate racial imbalance through the busing of children from Boston and Springfield to public school systems in surrounding suburban metropolitan communities. The METCO Program is open to all children of African American, Latino, Asian and Native American descent who reside in the City of Boston and volunteer to participate. There is no income eligibility requirement, which results in METCO families representing a cross section of economic backgrounds from Boston. There are over 3,100 Boston students who attend 37 suburban school districts, including Wellesley, Natick, Lexington, Brookline, and Bedford through the METCO Program.
The creation of METCO coincided with the problems of school segregation highlighted by the Racial Imbalance Act of 1965, legislation passed by the Mass General Court that made the segregation of public schools illegal in Massachusetts. The law stated that “racial imbalance shall be deemed to exist when the percent of nonwhite students in any public school is in excess of fifty per cent of the total number of students in such school.” These racially imbalanced schools were required to desegregate according to the law or risk losing their state educational funding.
In 1966 groups within the Newton community, including the citywide P.T.A. Council, Newton Fair Housing Committee, League of Women Voters, Roxbury-Newton Freedom School, the historically black Myrtle Baptist Church, and many individuals officially supported the unanimous vote of the Newton School Committee to participate in METCO. The Newton METCO Program began with 50 African American students attending seven different schools in Newton. Today, it is comprised of a diverse group of about 400 students from broad ethnic, cultural, economic and religious backgrounds enrolled in all 21 schools, in Kindergarten through Grade 12.
We, the members of Families Organizing for Racial Justice (FORJ), are deeply supportive both of the original goal of METCO and the current, ongoing benefits it brings to our children who live in Newton, Boston, and other surrounding communities. First, participating in METCO represents our city’s commitment to racial justice, including the integration of schools and the expansion of access and choice to families regardless of their race and income (a large factor in families’ ability to actually live in Newton). It also serves to help ensure that we are in compliance with the law. Second, we prize the increased diversity that METCO brings to our classrooms and schools. Newton children are able to have more friends of diverse backgrounds AND expand their definition of their community in a real way through these friendships to include Boston neighborhoods. In addition, parents and caregivers get to know one another through their children and participation in their schools’ communities, which further expands our social networks and understanding of the world.
Regarding funding, Newton taxes do not pay for students to participate in METCO. Rather, the number of students enrolled in METCO is benchmarked against the number of open seats in Newton schools. Every year there are spots in grade levels across the district and it is these spots that students from Boston fill. Not all schools and grade levels have spaces available; students are only assigned to the schools that do. To support the METCO program administration in the receiving cities and towns, the state provides about $4100 to those districts for each student, in addition to funding for transportation. As with all students in every Massachusetts district, the state provides additional funding based upon individual student need, including for students with disabilities and English learners. The suggestion made by the Newton Taxpayers Association writer that Newton would be better off to use funds that educate Boston children for other uses is not possible because, in fact, there is no per-student allocation cost to Newton for students enrolled through METCO.
In sum, we believe that the METCO program is a valuable element of Newton Public Schools – and a real bargain. If readers would like more information on FORJ, please reach out to school-based parent coordinators or visit the citywide website https://forjnewton.com/. For more information on Newton METCO, please see https://www.newton.k12.ma.us/Domain/521.
Alexandra Wolf, Kate Kennedy: Angier Elementary School
Katie Biello, Tamika Olszewski: Burr Elementary School
Vineeta Vijayaraghavan: Cabot Elementary School
Ashia Ray and Kerry Prasad: Countryside Elementary School
Karen and Robbie Silverman, Jackie Savage-Borne and Ben Borne, Benjamin and Siobhan Crosby: Franklin Elementary School
Kate Carpenter Bernier, Marisa Howe, Renande Loayza, Lucia Panichella, Cedar Pruitt, Lena Zuckerwise: Horace Mann Elementary School
Sara Penn, Emily Frank: Mason-Rice Elementary School
Adam Stearns, Tui Sutherland: Lincoln Eliot Elementary School
Jamie Robinson: Memorial Spaulding Elementary School
Elsa Christiansen Janairo: Peirce Elementary School
Erika Holmberg, Elisa Rodriguez: Underwood Elementary School
Angela Brooks, Jeanne Choe-Arrieta, Amy Cook, Kathy Shields: Ward Elementary School
Chloe, Emmy, and Irwin Chuk, Emily McMains, Omer Mendelson, Alison Callahan: Williams Elementary School
Amy Behrens, Josh Jacobs: Zervas Elementary School
Becca, Bill, and Nellie Havemeyer, Madeline McNeely, Rhiannon Esposito, Erika Holmberg: Bigelow Middle School
Jennifer Dirga: Brown Middle School
Jaya DeLong, Renande Loayza, Elsa Janairo: FA Day Middle School
Jamie Robinson, Amy Behrens, Josh Jacobs,: Oak Hill Middle School
Lisa Bibuld, Elsa Janairo: Newton North High School
Amy Behrens, Josh Jacobs, Jennifer Dirga: Newton South High School
Maricel Sheets, Newton METCO Director
Bridget Ray-Canada: School Committee Member, Ward 1
Margaret Albright: School Committee Member, Ward 2
Anping Shen, School Committee Member, Ward 3
Diana Fisher Gomberg, School Committee Member, Ward 4
Ruth Goldman: School Committee Chair, Ward 6
Kathy Shields, School Committee Member, Ward 7
Matthew Miller: School Committee Member, Ward 8