We are in the midst of uncovering why there has been such a steep decline in the population of Black teachers in Baltimore City. Over the past decade the proportion of Black teachers in Baltimore’s teaching force has declined from 67% to 32%. We are analysing this trend using quantitative and qualitative data. Using the Freedom of Information Act, we obtained a database that shows teacher demographics for every teacher hired or employed from 2003 to 2016. TDP staff is working with a data analyst to go through the data on a school by school basis in order to generate ideas for how this trend could be reversed. From a qualitative point of view, TDP is collecting stories and making a video about how this change actually affected people. We have thus far interviewed over 20 teachers, education advocates and academics to determine some of the causes.
Teachers’ Democracy Project got involved in the Community Schools Policy as a way to push for a more empowered model rather than a service provider model. TDP staff and fellows listened to teachers, parents, lead agencies, community schools coordinators and others on their thoughts about what would make this initiative better. We asked that the school system be more inclusive about discussions about school climate and to embrace more democratic decision-making—discussions that include the community schools initiative, but also look beyond the formally designated and funded community schools to look at the kinds of support that all schools need to begin the work of embracing this philosophy.
Our ultimate hope was to push people to do the hard work of shifting school culture in the direction of inclusive decision-making; we need services that are integrated into the entire school, that include teachers, and that address deep needs holistically. We believe that the solutions require a move away from a pure service model of community schools to a community-empowered model in which families and teachers are in authentic partnership, and have the power to make decisions about how to address the needs they see in their neighborhood schools. We also acknowledge that this shift necessitates thoughtful processes, which will allow for healing, support and training for community members that bear the scars of generational disinvestment and systemic racism. At the same time, this shift requires a fundamental review of district office policies and procedures across multiple offices, and a willingness to engage in training around racial equity issues and communicating across cultural divides.
Equity of Funding
Charters were initially designed to be laboratories to bring innovation to public schools. The challenge is that instead of spreading the learning gained to all schools, they have become an institution that functions as an escape hatch for a small population of kids. TDP believes we instead need to fight for equity and adequacy of funding for every child. We were working alongside other groups, attending hearings and generally helping to get the word out in opposition to legislation that would have given charters more funding and the ability to take teachers out of the union.
In April and May 2015, we fought hard alongside George Mitchell and the Langston Hughes community against the closing of LHE. We fought for this because we had been studying the issue of school privatization and several of our fellows were eager to do more political work. We saw the closing as part of a larger movement to close schools in lower income neighborhoods while at the same time investing in charters. Though we were advocates, we were able to leave the responsibility for organizing to the Baltimore Algebra Project and Leaders for a Beautiful Struggle. Our role focused on raising awareness about the issues through our first major forum called: "The Human Face of Policy" which featured school stories and videos produced by fellows and staff, with a feature video focused on the LHE battle. We still have strong ties to the Park Heights education struggles.