As a community leader, a pastor and a parent of a Baltimore City Public Schools child, Tuesday should have been a great day. Schools opened back up. Families and teachers and community leaders gathered to celebrate the continued development of our children, to be inspired by the promise of a new year in the life of these kids and the life of our community. And it felt like that at Mt. Royal Elementary Middle School! For a moment (“A heatwave — political and otherwise — slams Baltimore kids,” Sept. 5).
Parents and children arrived with our bags of schools supplies, kids re-connecting after a summer away, seeing who got taller, who was in which class, who was sharing lockers with whom. But then the reality hit. As soon as we walked out of the building, parents were discussing how they were going to come back in less than four hours to pick our kids up again. “Well, can you get them today and I’ll get them tomorrow? Because you know its going to be the same tomorrow too.” One whole year.
It should not be this way. In a state with a $500 million budget surplus, we should not have kids who are shortchanged. And we shouldn’t pass that on to the most disadvantaged kids either. How many days will, as Morgan State University professor Lawrence Brown has noted, primarily black Baltimore students miss out on this year for heat and cold? Five? Ten? Over the one student’s lifetime in the schools that is 140 days of pre-K to 12th grade, or nearly an entire school year lost.
Some will attempt to say that this is a Baltimore City problem because local governments pay for schools. But this is not true! Statewide, half of all education funding comes from the state. And the reason is simple. Education costs too much to be borne solely at the local level. Further, a state-funded survey of school funding found the system underfunded by $2.9 billion a year — more than $2 million per school. This money was, of course, supposed to come from the casino funds, but we now know that also hasn’t happened.
Now is the time for Gov. Larry Hogan and the General Assembly to properly fund all our schools statewide — so that none of our children in Baltimore City end up with one year less of education, of opportunity and of hope.
The Rev. Grey Maggiano, Baltimore
The writer is rector of Memorial Episcopal Church.