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State Endorses Boston University-Chelsea Pact, With Strings

April 26, 1989

LAWRENCE, Mass. (AP) _ A wary state Board of Education has endorsed a 10-year plan for Boston University to run the school system in impoverished Chelsea.

The board’s 7-4 vote Tuesday followed hours of passionate argument. Chelsea officials and parents hailed BU as the city’s rescuer; teachers and Hispanic groups protested that the plan runs roughshod over constitutional rights.

In giving its approval, the board attached strings to make BU more accountable to the public.

Chelsea is a down-at-the-heels city of 26,000 north of Boston with a large proportion of immigrants and the elderly. Teacher salaries are low, as are test scores, and the high school dropout rate of 17 percent is among the state’s highest.

The takeover plan, which calls for BU to pump in millions of dollars in donations and the know-how of its faculty and students, is subject to approval by the Legislature, but that is considered virtually certain.

″Boston University represents a hope, a dream for us,″ Chelsea School Committee member Bruce Henderson pleaded during the board meeting here.

″Boston University is our salvation,″ said Parent-Teacher Association leader Rosemary Carlisle.

But Juan Vega of the Chelsea Commission on Hispanic Affairs complained that BU and city officials ignored requests for more information and a Spanish translation of the plan.

Others raised fears that BU would do away with bilingual education in the school system, where about half the 3,300 students come from homes of Hispanic origin.

Teachers unions are fighting the plan in court as unconstitutional.

In its action Tuesday, the board said the Legislature should make BU hold open meetings and make records available to the public. If BU rejects this, the board said, the Legislature should make the legislation expire in two years.

Gov. Michael Dukakis said his opinion of the plan ″depends on the terms and conditions.″

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