For Boston's troubled public schools it's showdown time again

Boston, one of whose schools, Boston Latin, was recently numbered among the nation's "12 best" high schools, is nearing a crisis that could close its 122 schools or leave their classrooms manned by a majority of black teachers.

Since classes opened Sept. 9, the school system has been confronted with these problems:

* Continuing administrative confusion caused by the closing of 27 schools and the firing of 1,000 teachers, leaving many faculty assignments, curriculum decisions, and special programs unresolved.

* Boston Teachers Union (BTU) bitterness over layoffs of 710 tenured white teachers stemming from court orders circumventing seniority in favor of affirmative action protecting minority personnel.

* Demands by black parents that schools remain open, strike or no strike, and that black teachers report to classes regardless of union action.

* Pending decisions by two judges, which could force Mayor Kevin H. White, who is refusing to increase the school department budget for the third straight year, to loosen city purse strings to pay contracted raises to teachers and to open public city park facilities to school varsity sports free of fees.

As the guessing game on whether teachers will strike as threatened Sept. 21 continues, Dr. Robert R. Spillane, the city's fourth school superintendent within a year, has vowed in public appearances that schools will remain open, strike or no strike, that his administration will abide by desegregation orders of US District Judge W. Arthur Garrity Jr., and that the system will live within the $210 million budget limit being insisted on by Mayor White.

In addition, the new school chief has taken a hard line against a teacher strike, threatening strikers with the loss of their jobs.

Basically, the public schools' problems are caused by a financial crunch as Mayor White refuses to add a cent to the school budget for the third straight year. The Boston School Committee has overspent the budget the past two years, but has voted to remain within the mayor's budget for the 1981-82 school year.

To do this, the school committee has approved the firing of tenured teachers even though the union contract guarantees their jobs this year, the cutting of school curricula, including several magnet programs designed to keep schools integrated, and possibly the withholding of scheduled teacher pay raises for this year.

The BTU, which originally threatened not to report on opening day, Sept. 8, has delayed a strike vote until a special meeting Sept. 20. Kathleen Kelley, the BTU's president, says her union is willing to negotiate its position.

If the union approves a walkout, black teachers may go to work, Joseph Delgardo, speaking for the Concerned Black Educators of Boston, told a press conference Thursday. Hispanic teachers, like most blacks low on seniority, are expected to follow the black teachers and work, too.

Judge Garrity, watchdog over school desegregation, will decide within the next few days whether the city can charge public school varsity teams fees for use park facilities. If his answer is "yes", it will further affect the already tight school budget or cause a major curtailment of the system's interscholastic sports program. In the past schools have used city facilities without charge.

Superior Court Judge Thomas Morse Jr. is considering whether to require Mayor White to request an additional $8.2 million needed to fund teachers' raises in accordance with their contract.

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