DeJuliis: Parents are the key to school reform [Letter]

June 13, 2014

As someone whose career in public service was launched from the trenches of community activism, I could not agree more with Yara Cheikh, who wrote in the May 10 issue of this newspaper that citizen advocacy was the driving force behind school reform ("Sen. Jim Brochin doesn't serve big government"). The voice of parents and neighbors is and has always been the prime mover behind education in this county. I am only sorry that I did not make that as clear as I might have at the Idlewylde Community Hall senatorial forum to which Ms. Cheikh referenced.

At that forum, I tried to point out that local rather than state government was primarily responsible for writing the checks when it comes to school funding. Building the will to get those checks written and signed is entirely another matter.

Money gets spent at any level of government only when the people force the hand of those in office. This has been a guiding principle of my life, from the founding of Community Action Against Drugs, a local response to crime and safety, through every civic cause I have engaged on since — and there have been many.

But this point is perhaps best made in a history of Dundalk schools — facts that formed the basis for the successful redistricting case of 2002. As a named plaintiff in this well-known redistricting case, legislative districts were drawn to fairly represent the voices of Marylanders. In that history, I note that beginning in the 19th century with a single room in a church basement, the first elementary school, the first junior high school and eventually the first high school were all launched by the work and effort of a community that insisted education be a priority. Even our community college would never have come to be without civic advocates who demanded educational opportunity close to home.

I applaud Ms. Cheikh and those like her who make their voices heard and make their communities better. I ask only that those activists, and the neighbors who support their efforts also take the time to study the records of all those in public office who claim to be on their side and to hold them accountable not just for their words, but for their voting records.

Connie DeJuliis, Lutherville

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