City schools left fighting for crumbs

Maryland needs to adequately fund its schools so Baltimore isn't left fighting for crumbs.

It has been several weeks since Baltimore City Schools CEO Sonja Santelises announced that the school district's projected $130 million budget gap for next year would lead to 1,000 or more layoffs, and the finger-pointing is now in full swing. Some are faulting Gov. Larry Hogan, who has funded the district according to the long-established state formula ("Maryland Democrats blast Hogan's education agenda," Feb. 7). Others blame Kevin Plank ("Plank shortchanges city schools," Feb. 9), others real estate developers or the city itself for financial arrangements made to the detriment of state education funding — but to the benefit of the city's wealth ("Baltimore leads state in growth," Feb. 4). Many ask what happened to the promised boon to education from Maryland's casinos, while my own union and others invoke the tired refrain of district mismanagement and "bloated administration" — something that external analyses and audits suggest is more urban legend than reality.

The crisis around the gap in educational funding in Baltimore has been extremely upsetting to my students, their families, my colleagues, and myself, and not just because I am one of the 1,000 people who may lose my job at the end of the school year. I would much rather focus on improving my ability to differentiate lessons for my students than worrying about the fate of my school and whether my colleagues and I will still be employed after the end of June. Let's be honest, many school employees are already over-worked, so working longer and harder with this extra burden is not a welcome idea. What bothers me most at this time of crisis, however, is that rather than shining a light on the fact that, as a society, we have shamefully underfunded urban education, we are instead wasting time and energy fighting among ourselves. 

The underfunding of public education in Maryland — along with the outdated per-pupil formula — has been acknowledged by policymakers and researchers alike. As part of their work to review the adequacy of Maryland's education funding, consultants retained by the state recently recommended a significant increase in investment in public education ("Maryland state and local governments urged to increase school funding by $2.6 billion," Dec. 8). Let's stop fighting with each other for crumbs and instead fight together to grow the pie.

Public sector budgets are a reflection of a society's values and priorities. North Avenue administrators should not have to scrape and cut and go hat in hand year after year, and school district staff should not have to worry each spring about spending freezes and reductions in workforce. Even more importantly, students and families should not have to wonder if there will be 25 or 35 kids in their class next year, and whether art, music, sports, field trips and after-school programs — and even pencils and paper towels — will be available. If we are going to fight, let's fight together for a new funding formula at the state level and fix this for real, for our kids and for our future.

Brendan McFadden, Baltimore

Brendan McFadden, Baltimore

The writer is an 8th grade math teacher at Cross Country Elementary Middle School. He has also served as a building union representative and an intern in City Schools Office of Human Capital to support teacher recruitment.

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