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City school spending merits greater scrutiny

Students were dismissed early from Frederick Douglass High School because of cold on Jan. 3.
Students were dismissed early from Frederick Douglass High School because of cold on Jan. 3. (Barbara Haddock Taylor)

Like most caring taxpayers who support Maryland's public school systems, I am a strong proponent for adequate public school funding, but, quantifying “adequate” can be problematic. The recent turmoil over the condition of Baltimore City Public Schools raises some significant questions that the mayor, school board and school administrations must address before they ask taxpayers for additional funding (“‘Expensive to be poor’ — how state rules have helped keep city schoolkids in the cold,” Jan. 8).

The National Center for Education Statistics reports some very troubling data comparing Baltimore City Public Schools funding to national public school system averages. According to the center, Baltimore schools, one of the worst performing systems in the country, receive roughly $17,000 per student in annual funding by taxpayers; 20 percent federal, 20 percent from Baltimore and 60 percent from Maryland. Compare this to a system like Fairfax County, Virginia which is considered among the best performing systems in the nation. Fairfax spends $14,000 per student, and they do this with just 5 percent federal dollars and 20 percent from the state. The national average funding overall is closer to $13,000 per student.

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Do books cost 20 percent more in Baltimore than in Fairfax? Do teachers, construction workers, maintenance workers and energy cost 20 percent more in Baltimore? The citizens of Baltimore and Maryland should demand an explanation. Someone should be accountable to explain why one of the most expensive school systems in the country is in such deplorable condition. Federal and state criminal investigations have been launched on far less evidence.

Linwood J. Bazemore, Nottingham

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