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Recalling Judge Kaplan’s big impact on public schools | READER COMMENTARY

Baltimore Circuit Court Chief Judge Joseph H.H. Kaplan packs up his office on Oct. 6, 2006 after retiring from decades on the bench. File. (Barbara Haddock Taylor/Baltimore Sun).
Baltimore Circuit Court Chief Judge Joseph H.H. Kaplan packs up his office on Oct. 6, 2006 after retiring from decades on the bench. File. (Barbara Haddock Taylor/Baltimore Sun). (BARBARA HADDOCK TAYLOR/Baltimore Sun)

The Sun’s obituary for Judge Joseph H. H. Kaplan (”Joseph H. H. Kaplan, retired chief judge for the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, dies,” Jan. 6), the retired chief judge of the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, excellently recounted his long and distinguished judicial career. But one of his most important and enduring achievements was overlooked: his series of decisions in the 1990s and early 2000s that established the constitutional right in Maryland to an adequate public education.

Judge Kaplan showed deep concern for the children of Baltimore, affirming their right to access to the resources necessary for school and lifetime success. And his rulings paved the way for statewide legislation — the “Thornton” law in 2002 and the current Blueprint for Maryland’s Future bill in 2019 — that has enabled progress for schoolchildren, especially those who are poor and of color.

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Still, the work remains unfinished, and court litigation to fully fulfill the right to education is still underway. In this long struggle, we should continue to be guided by the legal and moral principles that Judge Kaplan advanced.

Bebe Verdery and Kalman R. Hettleman, Baltimore

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The writers are, respectively, the retired education director for the ACLU of Maryland which brought the case before Judge Kaplan and an education policy analyst and advocate.

Add your voice: Respond to this piece or other Sun content by submitting your own letter.

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