Two events happened last month, both related to education, that are sadly related to one another. The first reported tragic results. The second reported a tragic decision. Both demonstrate how Maryland continues to leave thousands of students behind.
First, based on data reported by the MD Department of Education, Project Baltimore reported that 23 schools in Baltimore City had ZERO students who achieved proficiency in math at grade level. Further, in 20 schools, there were no more than TWO students who achieved proficiency in math at grade level. What this means is that in over 50 schools, there are less than two students PER SCHOOL who achieved proficiency in math. Local, national, and even international news sources reported these dismal results.
And what typically happens to these children at the end of their school year? According to a former statewide education official, they are “…given passing marks on their report cards and promoted even though they are nowhere near meeting grade level standards”
In light of these tragic results, one may be tempted to conclude that the state isn’t spending enough on public education. That conclusion would be wrong. As of 2019, Maryland spent $15,500 per pupil, per year. In one classroom of 20 students for one year, Maryland taxpayers invest over $300,000.
As a former educator myself, I know how important teachers are. Day in and day out they pour themselves into students, showing courage and compassion under very difficult circumstances. They’ve often been given an impossible task.
In the face of these disastrous results, you’d think the Governor and his administration would sound the alarm. After decades of increased investment in public education, it’s clear that those investments aren’t paying off, and it’s time to get help to these kids quickly. If only there was an option to get these students out of an environment, which is objectively detrimental to their educational health. Perhaps there could be a scholarship that these families could utilize for a school that would better meet their needs, so that they could learn math with proficiency.
Thankfully there is such a program. In 2016, the Legislature passed the BOOST program. In the most recent year, the program provided scholarships for 3,260 students, all of whom qualify for free or reduced lunches. It allows low-income families (the majority of whom are families of color) to choose schools that are best for their children. For numerous children and families, these scholarships are a lifeline to a good education and a promising future.
You would think in light of this education crisis, it would be time to double and triple the funding for this program, so that more kids could be placed in a better academic environment and receive the education they need.
But the Governor did just the opposite.
The tragic decision was the unveiling of the Governor’s budget, which astonishingly proposed REDUCING this program by 20%. He is planning to eventually phase out the program, regardless of the fact that it is helping thousands of students in Maryland whose average household income is $35,000 increase their educational opportunities. Moore is putting his agenda before the needs of students and families in our most vulnerable communities.
Of the students who benefit from this program, 550 reside in Baltimore City. A cut of twenty percent could mean 600 students statewide will simply stop receiving these grants. At just the time when these students need to be in good schools, the Governor’s budget could force them right back into what literally have become failure factories.
I implore the Governor to not only restore funding to this program, but to increase funding in light of the continued failure of Baltimore city public schools. These children and families need and deserve better.
During his stirring and exalting Inaugural address, Governor Moore rightly called our attention to the fact that as a state “we have left too many people behind.” Specifically referencing our children, the Governor charted this aspiration: “We will ensure that every student knows their state loves, and needs them — and we will create policies to help them thrive.” Sadly, given the current results of these schools in Baltimore, and his proposal to take vital help away from our most needy students, I hope the Governor will live up to his own rhetoric.