Say Yes to Education can transform Baltimore

Say Yes to Education is about a lot more than free college.

We are thrilled that Baltimore's candidacy for Say Yes to Education was recognized by The Sun as an "enormously intriguing idea" and has emerged as a subject of broad community dialogue ("Free college?" July 17).

Some clarification is critical at this early juncture. Say Yes aims to do much more than remove affordability as a barrier to higher education. First and foremost, the community will identify all resources dedicated to city children. That information will feed a transparent, inclusive process of reforming and focusing our education system on the outcomes we all want for our children. The process will be guided by Say Yes professionals, who are independent experts, and include all stakeholders-parents, teachers, elected officials, health care and nonprofit professionals, academics, philanthropists, employers and others. The private sector funds the scholarship requirements. The public sector has an opportunity to rethink how resources are allocated — with everyone at the table and committed to a single, long-term objective. Decisions will be guided by simple criteria : (1) to enable all children to advance steadily and consistently; (2) to address individual student needs promptly and effectively; and (3) to prepare students for college or careers after high school. With this process, we can proceed with confidence to build on Baltimore's numerous successful initiatives and best practices from elsewhere.

Say Yes to Education is not a "program." It is certainly not an alternative to needed reforms in housing or drug treatment. However, it is a strategy that can leverage change throughout the systems serving our schoolchildren and their families. It is a non-political, expert-driven, community-based process that can help revitalize Baltimore City with a scholarship incentive for the middle-class to stay in the city and drive reform to help all children

Josh Fidler and Calvin Butler, Baltimore

The writers are co-chairman of Chesapeake Realty Partners and CEO of Baltimore Gas and Electric (BGE). Both are trustees of The Baltimore Community Foundation

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