Collins Goes to School
Boston now uses some of the oldest and shabbiest school buildings in the country. They are especially concentrated in the Negro ghetto, where school population is growing fastest.
Before a new school can be built in Boston today the plans must be passed on sixty-six times: by the School Committee, the School Building Commission, the State School Assistance Commission, the Boston fire, garbage, health, building, and zoning authorities, and so on and so forth. The Assistance Commission, which allocates state building aid, has been sitting on the blue-prints of one grade school for seven months.
Aid will apparently be withheld until Boston comes up with a satisfactory plan to comply with the State Racial Imbalance Law. The School Committee's intransigence in racial matters has also delayed the building of a new English High School for over three years; the only available site has been in Roxbury. The Committee has yet to spend a cent of the $29 million bond issue, floated in 1963, for fear of disturbing the racial status quo.
Mayor Collins has come up with a means of cutting this Gordian knot of politics and red tape. The Adinolfi Report, commissioned by Collins and released last week, proposes that a new city agency be formed to plan and construct all municipal buildings. This "Public Facilities Commission" would be appointed by, and solely responsible to, the mayor. It would conduct long range planning, handle all finances, choose architects, and select building sites. It would have a budget immune to amendment by the City Council, and it would be able to bypass city regulatory agencies and float its own bond issues without regard to the city's statutory debt limit.
The School Committee would have no veto over the new agency's decisions, only advisory powers. But there is little reason to believe that the Commission would ignore the School Department's professional advice. By taking away some of the School Committee's power, the new agency should help to disentangle school construction from racist politics.
The Adinolfi Report would put a great deal of fiscal power into the hands of the mayor. Though the report reads like a power-play, if enacted by the Legislature it would oblige Collins to produce new schools. And Collins schools are better than no schools at all.