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Better educational outcomes require a better social safety net | READER COMMENTARY

Identifying and assisting struggling students is considered a key element in education reform. Merely improving the quality of instruction won't necessarily help students facing problems of poverty or behavioral issues at home. (Barbara Haddock Taylor/Baltimore Sun).
Identifying and assisting struggling students is considered a key element in education reform. Merely improving the quality of instruction won't necessarily help students facing problems of poverty or behavioral issues at home. (Barbara Haddock Taylor/Baltimore Sun). (Barbara Haddock Taylor / Baltimore Sun)

As a retired school social worker, Judge James K. Bredar’s insight that police have long been expected to “provide almost every social service that residents require” resonated deeply with me (”Aspects of the national ‘defund the police’ movement can fit into Baltimore’s consent decree reforms, federal judge says,” April 30). Since the advent of No Child Left Behind in 2001, schools have carried the burden of being the Great Social Leveler. The recent work of Maryland’s Kirwan Commission and the resulting Blueprint for Maryland’s Future Act (recently passed over Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto by the Maryland General Assembly), has finally recognized that the ability of a child to learn, and society to prosper, is more complicated than simply putting students in a classroom in front of a competent teacher.

The act includes significant funding to provide liaisons in schools who will coordinate wrap-around services including, but not limited to, behavioral health and substance use treatment so that needed social services will be offered where students and families are and they will be tailored to specific community needs. This is a critical and much-needed first step.

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Unfortunately, community school liaisons cannot “coordinate” services that are already spread thin or non-existent. The social safety net hasn’t been patched since Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society and is worn and frayed. It’s time.

Gail Martin, Catonsville

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