Hopkins leaders: We need strong Baltimore public schools
Mar 09, 2017 at 1:54 PM
Baltimore City schools CEO Sonja Santelises is prepared to lay off more than 1,000 employees, from classroom teachers to custodians, in order to close a $130 million budget gap. (Emma Patti Harris/Baltimore Sun video)
In the past year, we've seen first-hand the extraordinary impact of Baltimore's public schools. We have heard the first class of students at P-TECH at Dunbar High School dreaming about their future careers in health care. We have watched teachers at Barclay Elementary/Middle open the world of computer science to young children. And we've seen visionary principals channeling their creative ideas into classrooms and curricula.
The value of Baltimore City Public Schools can sometimes be overshadowed by debate about the causes, fixes and fault lines in the current budget gap. But the passion underlying this debate is fueled by an important point of consensus: Public education is at the heart of a healthy city, and a healthy city is better for all of us — families, neighborhoods, businesses and anchor institutions, like ours.
We agree with the Baltimore Community Foundation trustees who wrote that "Baltimore needs great schools to be a great economic engine" (March 6). And we know that public schools matter — to the 82,000 children whose futures depend on them; to the families who, when possible, make decisions about where to live based on the opportunities available to their children; and to employers — like us — who depend on Baltimore's public school graduates for our workforce and need a strong public school system to help attract employees and their families to our city.
We know BCPS must right-size its budget to respond to enrollment trends and capital needs. But sudden, dramatic, and across-the-board budget cuts will move us in the wrong direction at a critical time for Baltimore. We need rational budgeting, strategic investments and transition assistance, over several years, to protect the system's core assets and set a foundation for the future.
City schools CEO Sonja Santelises and her team need support from all of us as they work to sculpt smart, targeted and creative solutions to move our schools forward and improve the health of our city. We owe that to city residents — including 15,000 Johns Hopkins employees who live in Baltimore — and, most importantly, we owe it to our children.
Ronald J. Daniels and Ronald R. Peterson, Baltimore
The writers are president of Johns Hopkins University and president of the Johns Hopkins Health System.