It may be understandable that the Greater Baltimore Committee is at the point of frustration with efforts to improve the city's public schools, but the alternative floated Wednesday by director Robert Keller -- a state takeover of the schools -- is really no solution at all. At bottom, what matters is not so much who runs the schools, but how well they are run. And that, in turn, depends to a very large degree on the resources available to give every child the best education possible.
There is always the possibility, of course, that a state takeover of the city schools would lead to significant increases in funding for education. But the state could just as well increase school funds without actually running the system. And proposals for putting the schools under state supervision seem to fly in the face of the present consensus about how best to seek improvements, which is to give individual schools more control over programs and resources, not less -- in other words, toward decentralization, not greater central control.
And yet the frustration does point to a reality city officials simply cannot ignore. The failure of school reform in Baltimore has been, fundamentally, a failure of leadership. There is just no question that, had the same concerted effort been put into improving the public schools that was put into, say, developing the Inner Harbor or retaining a major league baseball team, Baltimore would not today be confronting the monumental problems in education that have resulted from decades of past neglect. A public school system that could have been one of the region's greatest assets for economic development is instead now one of the principal brakes on future economic growth.