Worcester battles budget woes, racism claims

Worcester battles budget woes, racism claims
Worcester Public Schools to be fully remote when schools open on Sept. 15, officials say

WORCESTER, Mass. — Teachers have already started their first day of school in Worcester, but students won’t be seeing them in-person once the fall term begins in two weeks.

Worcester voted to go back with a remote learning model and while professional development begins, the school district is grappling with a budget shortfall of $15.5 million.

At a School Committee meeting Thursday night, leaders voted in favor of a series of cuts that impact future teacher hiring, transportation, and extended learning at four schools.

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“To the degree that there’s anything positive in a $15.5 million cut, is that we did it without cutting and jobs,” said Tracy Novick.

Teacher salaries were not affected by cuts which were voted on, and approved by leaders on Thursday.

The first issue that arose during the meeting was not the budget, but instead, racism.

Racism-free WPS is an Instagram account described as Anonymous testimonials of prejudice and inequality in Worcester Pubic Schools.

It is run by 15 people who want well-funded, equitable schools that are free of School Resource Officers, according to the biography.

Several teachers joined the virtual School Committee meetings to support students including Jeremy Shulkin, a teacher with WPS.

“WPS has used SROs as an expensive band-aid over larger problems,” Shulkin told the committee.

Tracy Novick said she supports the idea of removing resource officers.

“It’s also a funny year for this because we don’t actually have students in the buildings,” Novick added.

On Sept. 15, students will begin their first day of school.

More budget cuts are possible, according to the district, though it will depend on the forthcoming state budget, which officials said they hope to see by October.

Messages left for the Educational Association of Worcester, the local union representing teachers were not returned.

Racism-free WPS members said they were unavailable for comment.

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