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MarylandCAN isn't interested in kids but in pushing an anti-public school agenda [Letter]

We are parents of students at Hamilton Elementary Middle School, which received some much-appreciated positive attention due to its selection as an "Opportunity School" by an organization called MarylandCAN ("City's low-income students among highest achievers," May 22).

Jason Botel, head of MarylandCAN, has since appeared on WYPR talking about our school and has been quoted in another Sun article regarding education and economics.

Mr. Botel is not an advocate for public schools and teachers. He is not an education researcher or policy expert. He is a political operative for the pro-corporate charter "reform" movement. His organization is part of a national group called 50CAN, founded by a hedge fund manager and allied with major pro-privatization advocates in U.S. education. MarylandCAN seeks to change state law in order to dramatically increase the number of charter schools in our state.

Mr. Botel has ambitions far larger than praising high test scores in eight Baltimore City schools. In a matter of days, he has gone from talking about "Opportunity Schools" in Baltimore to claiming that "there are organizations in other parts of the country that are operating schools that are succeeding in leading children from low-income families — especially children of color — to reach much higher levels of academic success than the norm for their communities."

MarylandCAN's attention is not really about our children but about using our children to sell the idea that schools can succeed regardless of the impacts of poverty and income inequality — especially if the right "organizations" are in charge.

We believe poverty does matter, and we believe in public schools. We do not appreciate our bright and talented students being used to promote initiatives that are detrimental to our school and city. Our school is a great school, full of dedicated teachers and staff. We have wonderful parent volunteers. We are proud of our children. And we are angry that Mr. Botel and MarylandCAN are seeking to cynically play on our pride and our children's hard work to promote their own anti-public school agenda.

Ben Dalbey, Ty Pearson and Cathleen Becker, Baltimore

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