By Jason Botel & Mitchell Whiteman
9:47 AM EST, November 26, 2012
When Marylanders cast their ballots on Election Day, they said "yes, you can" to same-sex couples who want to get married, to young people whose families immigrated here illegally and who hope to receive in-state tuition, and to casino operators who want to expand their operations here. Now, as we move forward from this election, it's time to say "yes, you can" to another group of Marylanders who are no less deserving of affirmation: public school students from underserved communities.
Maryland is the top-ranked state in the nation when it comes to public education, according to an analysis by Education Week; that is something to be proud of. But when you look at the stark achievement gap between students from high- and low-income families, we're near the bottom. That must be fixed.
We are excited about our new state superintendent of schools, Lillian Lowery, who has experience leading efforts to close achievement gaps. Our next challenge is to build on the momentum she brings, as no single leader or referendum alone can close these gaps.
As the executive director and the board president of KIPP Baltimore, which operates two high-performing public charter schools, we have three recommendations for how those of us who are committed to every child's civil right to a high-quality education can continue on this path:
In Maryland, public charters are subject to every policy and regulation that governs traditional public schools — and yet, the Maryland charter law does not provide public charters with funding for facilities. We must reform this legislation to ensure public charter schools receive the autonomy and capital funds they need to help close the achievement gap for even more children from underserved families.
Looking at the big picture, our state has a good school system, but it has the potential to be a great one. If we can keep the positive change and forward momentum from this election season alive, we will truly transform the lives of Maryland's students — including those from underserved communities — and usher in a reality where every public school student knows that, "Yes, I can."
Jason Botel is the founder and executive director of KIPP Baltimore. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Mitchell Whiteman is the president of the KIPP Baltimore board of directors. His email is email@example.com.
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