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Lack of heat is mismanagement, not a case of inequality

With Baltimore City schools closed for a second day amid cold temperatures, Mayor Catherine Pugh directed students to the city’s recreation centers to eat.

But several recreation centers contacted by the Baltimore Sun as lunch time approached Friday said they did not have food and expected only to be serving meals later in the day. (Baltimore Sun video)

Your recent commentary on Baltimore’s school heating problems (“A chilling cause and effect, Baltimore’s school heating problems highlight inequity,” Jan. 8), attempted to use the tragic lack of heat conditions in Baltimore City Public Schools as a prime example of inequities in school funding and the resulting deplorable conditions. The commentary cited how the extreme cold conditions are not acceptable for any child or adult, which is correct. However, the commentary goes on to say that “these unacceptable learning conditions serve as a chilly reminder of what students, families, and educators in Baltimore City have known for years – that resource inequities force Baltimore city students to learn in environments that would never be tolerated in more affluent or more white districts." Unfortunately, the arguments completely missed the mark.

As pointed out clearly in the recent Sun article, “City schools have lost repair money” (Jan. 5), our Baltimore City schools were provided over $60 million in state funds to replace or repair the heating and cooling systems. These funds were provided in time to install or repair the HVAC systems for the current school year. However, due to mismanagement of the reasonable contracting and scheduling requirements of the state in granting the funds, the city was forced to return the funds to the state, resulting in failure to install or repair the affected schools’ HVAC systems, leading directly to the recent temporary closure of the schools. Gov. Larry Hogan, angered by the situation, cited it as an example of “inept management” of both the project and the state provided funds which, if used consistent with reasonable state requirements to avoid mismanagement, would have prevented the tragic environmental impact of schools lacking heat.

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So, in reality, this was clearly not a case of inequity in funding. Baltimore had adequate funding in hand to correct the school heating and related environmental problems prior to the current school year. But again, through mismanagement the city lost those funds. We need to place blame appropriately, and attributing this unfortunate and harmful (to our city students) situation to racially-based inequities is simply not true. While undoubtedly there are valid examples of inequities in resource distribution, this school heating example is patently not a result or example of those inequities.

Jerry Cothran, Baltimore

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