In today’s fast-paced, modern world, life is hectic, toxic and difficult to navigate. Even with the technology of the day, we found ourselves struggling to keep up; this is something we can all relate to and understand.
What we don’t understand, however, is the complete failure of the Baltimore City and Baltimore County public school systems. The city’s Board of School Commissioners and county’s Board of Education have policies that are inefficient and ineffective at educating students and and keeping them safe. Why? All of the people running the school systems are educated and trained.
It this a policy issue? If not, and the policies are, in fact, reasonable yet just not being adhered to or enforced, then that would suggest the boards are ineffective. Is it a funding problem? Doubtful, considering both school systems are among the most funded in the nation.
In fact, Forbes reported in 2021 that Baltimore City Public Schools “ran on a $1.4 billion budget for 78,000 students — a cost of $18,000 per pupil. Maryland state taxpayers put in approximately $1 billion, and the balance came from local and federal taxpayers.” And $684.5 million of that budget was spent on payroll alone, the magazine reported. So, it is not like employees are underpaid.
Similarly, Baltimore County Public Schools, according to district finances on GreatSchools.org, has a budget of at least $1.8 billion, averaging $16,410 per student.
Money is not the problem. It is more likely that the funding provided is not being used effectively. I am confident that each school and department therein uses all of its budget to ensure a similar or increased budget the following year. This practice is outdated, inefficient and wasteful among other things. Audits of BCPS’ financial statements should ensure this is not happening.
Neither the city’s nor the county’s school system are rated highly in the state or nation. Four-year graduation rates are low, and test scores are awful. So, what is the problem?
The decline of the nuclear family has played a major role. But we can’t blame everything on parenting alone; although, good parenting plays a key part in a student’s success. While many modern parents are disengaged from their child, and leave the heavy lifting of education to schools, this does not excuse the failure of schools to equip students to make adequate academic progress.
I understand that disruptive behavior can be toxic and disturb the learning environment. I know some children have personal and family issues that can result in their acting out. These children need to be disciplined, counseled and possibly separated from students who are willing to abide by the rules; that way, the non-disruptive students can learn.
Many schools are now overrun with delinquents. Robberies, fights, and drugs on school grounds are completely unacceptable, and for administrators to do virtually nothing about these behaviors is inexcusable. Parents worry about the safety of their kids while they are in school, and that is truly sad.
Tragedy can strike any day. Kids unafraid of real-world consequences become adults unafraid of consequences. Many of them will grow out of this rebellious phase, but some will not, without clear structure and guidance.
I do not believe the BCPS magnet programs have proven successful and are a major issue in this regard. Busing children from far-away neighborhoods into better-performing schools only burdens those schools with the instruction of students who refuse to cooperate with faculty and staff at their home schools.
At least make those students pass a probationary period to prove themselves capable of conducting themselves in an acceptable manner. I have heard this practice is done, but the decline of formerly good schools tells a different story.
Sure, all kids deserve a chance to learn and succeed, some even a second or third chance if they apply themselves. Everyone in a community benefits from successful children. We need to find the balance between compassion and expectation — be firm, yet fair.
I will not pretend to have all of the answers, because I don’t and should be expected to. That is why we have these highly paid and educated professionals running the show; they need to step up to take responsibility. Throwing money at the problem isn’t working. School administrators need to take corrective actions, whatever those may be, within their authority and budget constraints. Look at other school systems that are succeeding, and try to copy what they have done.
There has to be an answer to these problems. For our kids’ sake, our culture’s sake and the future of this country, we must solve these issues. We cannot afford not to.