Public schools anchor communities

This op-ed written by Helen Atkinson was published by the Baltimore Sun. Here is an except: 

"It used to be that the reason for having charter schools was to bring innovation to school districts serving children whose communities are out of the mainstream. The first charters were devised by progressive educators in the spirit of allowing flexibility to address specific community level concerns and students' cultural interests.

The rhetoric and argument has shifted completely. Gov. Larry Hogan, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, Maryland State School Board Member Chester Finn and President Donald Trump, to name a few of the players calling for the expansion of charter autonomy and funding, have a completely new set of arguments. Their reasoning has nothing to do with improving our existing school districts serving low income black and brown children."

Background to the Budget Deficit Crisis

This powerpoint created by Corey Gaber, a teacher in Baltimore City, provides ample evidence that the state’s contributions to City Schools has not kept pace with inflation, let alone with the needs faced by a school district that serves so many children from communities with concentrated poverty.  The argument is made very clearly that it is both false and misleading to blame the current budget crisis on “mismanagement of funds” or any other derogatory label typically applied to Baltimore’s funding.

“Our children deserve an excellent and equitable education. The state has not met its constitutional obligation to provide the resources necessary for an adequate and equitable education over the past 9 years. This is the #1 driver of the budget shortfall.  By the state’s own definition of adequacy, Baltimore City has a 290 million dollar gap.”

It is important not to be swayed by the misleading statements by the governor about record funding for public education, nor be taken off into tangents about parent choice, charter vs. traditional funding, North Ave incompetence, teacher salary/benefits being too high, or union contract issues.  All these are a smoke screen used to deflect away from the simple fact that Baltimore’s schools are and have been underfunded.

Response to the Discipline Policy

Following the policy collaborative meeting, we will have until February 3rd to make our recommendations for changes to the policy.  

Back in December the school board decided (8:1) to delay voting on the school discipline policy for two months while the district works with stakeholders to make the policy more progressive. Board members Cheryl Casciani, Martha James-Hassan, Peter Kannam and Andy Frank echoed our input by saying: “Why not take the time and make the policy truly progressive?” Dr. Santelises said: "After all this work, we might as well get it right."

We are also interested in talking more generally about how to democratize the policy making process. We have a particular focus on teachers’ concerns about the flexible Code of Conduct and the mandate to reduce suspensions prior to full implementation of any new approaches to school climate and discipline.

We are currently focusing on Baltimore City Schools’ discipline policy. The board will make a final vote on the policy on Feb. 28.

Input on the Baltimore School Discipline Policy

Teachers’ Democracy Project held a forum on Baltimore City Schools discipline policy on Tuesday, Dec 6. The Discipline Policy was under review by the school board and they were seeking input from the community. Teachers and parents talked about what the new discipline rules mean for their students. The forum brought multiple view points together and addressed one central question: How could this policy create a more functional system? Dinner will be provided and the event is free to attend.

An Equitable and Just School System Now!

The Journey for Justice Alliance (J4J) is a national network of intergenerational, grassroots community organizations led primarily by Black and Brown people in 24 U.S. cities. We assert that the lack of equity is one of the major failures of the American education system. It is a particular failure of the Obama administration, as a wholesale commitment to school privatization through school closings and charter school expansion has energized school segregation, the school to prison pipeline and subjected children to mediocre education interventions that over the past 15 years, have not resulted in sustained, improved education outcomes but have contributed to the destabilizing of the quality of life in urban communities. 

TDP Policy Recommendations

After reviewing the Community School Strategy and soliciting feedback from teachers, parents, lead agencies, community schools coordinators and others, TDP has proposed the following recommendations to the School Board: 

  • The policy should have as a goal that there be a functional, democratically- organized School Family Council (SFC) and the recommendations of the council SFC should carry the most weight in choosing the lead agency to manage the community schools coordinator.
  • The planning process involved in becoming a community school should be part of a single strategic planning process required of these schools. This would ensure that this work is seen holistically as a part of climate issues and student social emotional needs.
  • Community school principals should be held accountable through their evaluation for this integrated community schools plan.
  • This policy should be linked to other relevant policies such as the discipline policy. A commitment should be made to review existing policies in relation to each other.
  • Teachers need to be included in the community schools plan and should participate in evaluating the school’s partner organization.
  • In schools that are larger, there should be more than one Community Schools Coordinator. Since this would require substantially more funding, there should be stronger aspirational language to indicate the amount of additional funding required.
  • To acknowledge the need for equity across schools, there should be aspirational language to indicate the amount of additional funding required to support all schools in becoming community schools.

Beyond Community Schools

TDP hosted an event called Beyond Community Schools on Monday Oct, 3rd at the Parkview Recreation Center. The event focused on Baltimore City Schools recent policy that formally supports the presence of community schools in Baltimore. We heard from community activist, Kim Trueheart, educator, Chris Baron and Community Schools partner agency leader, Mark Carter to gain insights into innovative models with a community-centered approach, and shared ideas and questions. TDP compiled the ideas and questions from the event and shared them with the school board.

Baltimore schools CEO Sonja Santelises talks link between poverty, achievement

Baltimore schools CEO Sonja Santelises talks link between poverty, achievement

Baltimore City Schools CEO Sonja Santelises believes schools in pockets of concentrated poverty will improve if she can provide them with better teachers, offer their students a richer curriculum and leverage the sometimes unrecognized strengths of people within their communities.

Santelisis spoke as part of a panel of educators at the Johns Hopkins University's School of Education Thursday afternoon. The school is holding a two-day celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Coleman Report, a 700-page landmark publication that shaped education research and school reform for decades.

The Third Rail: Transit, Race and Inequity in Baltimore

A recent journal entry  by Baltimore resident Alec MacGillis writing for the online journal Places provides an excellent introduction to the history of inequity and segregation in Baltimore through the lens of transportation.  The article traces the developments in transportation and its relationship to accessible jobs, white flight, and housing segregation from the early days of street cars that gave rise to the, then, leafy suburban developments in Forest Park and Roland Park, to the recent cancellation of the East-West Red Line by our Republican governor, Hogan--a line that would have connected low income, Black residents from both East and West sides of the city to twin hubs of employment at Social Security and Johns Hopkins Bayview.