Stand against cuts to education

February 28, 2011

Thanks to Bebe Verdery for her excellent recap of Thornton funding for education funding and the danger it is in ( "Proposed cuts would break a promise to Maryland's kids," Feb. 27). That plan makes Maryland a moral and pragmatic leader among states in its willingness to address generational, legally sanctioned inequities in the education and opportunities afforded to children depending upon their race, class and region. It is moral to accept the state's responsibility to redress the denial of adequate care to our children through the years, and it is pragmatic to move vigorously forward in the recognition that the fortunes of all of us are tied to the fortunes of those denied children. If we want our city to prosper and our neighborhoods to be filled with solid citizens who have the skills to be gainfully employed, then it would be — and has been — self-destructive folly not to improve the education every one of our children receives.

The great shame is that the Thornton plan faces evisceration just as it should have ramped up to full strength. Imagine the progress our city schools might have made in the last three years if we had not lost around $70 million due to flat funding. Even with the cuts, enrollment is up over 700 children this year alone, our graduation rate is up, our truancy rate is down, achievement in reading and math is up, and people are applying to teach in our city schools in droves. If we hadn't been cut, perhaps more than one in 20 of our fourth and eighth graders would be proficient in science, a materials- and facility-intensive subject. Perhaps AP classes would be offered in all subjects in all our high schools. Perhaps more than 20 schools would be community schools. Perhaps wrap-around services could be provided to more of the children who need them. Perhaps more children could have attended last year's intellectually stimulating, fun summer school and would be reaping the academic rewards this school year.

In the end, the purpose of public education in a democracy is to create an effective, participatory citizenry who will keep that democracy going. On Monday, as teachers, students and families from across Baltimore rally in Annapolis by the thousands to protest cuts to education, the power of an organized citizenry will be heard. We celebrate our progress, and we ask our legislators to find the political courage to make the hard choices and find the revenue that will support our children and secure our city's future. If we believe that you get what you pay for, and that our children deserve every dime they get and then some, then we have to let our legislators know what we want. Legislator information can be found at the Baltimore Education Coalition's website, http://www.becforourkids.org. Larger class sizes, crumbling buildings, and diminished resources will not continue the progress that Baltimore City's schools have begun and that we all want to see continue.

Abigail Breiseth, Baltimore

The writer is a teacher at the Baltimore Lab School.

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