Two months ago, Baltimore City removed four Confederate statues from their pedestals. Now, if you want to see monuments to racism and inequity in our city, you can just walk to the nearest Baltimore City Public School. Poor performing, highly segregated schools are the real monuments to injustice in Maryland.
I applaud the work of the Kerwan Commission to devise a more equable formula for school financing. This is not easy. A chart showing state, local and federal funding sources and formulas has all the impossible complexity of a Rube Goldberg plumbing diagram. Adjusting it toward equity creates a tug of war over resources with competing school districts and state and local governments.
Should the State of Maryland increase it’s share of funding for students with learning disabilities or increase the per student payments? Should it increase funding for schools with concentrated poverty? Or should it ask counties to increase their share of the costs? Do we go back to when the state reduced the cost of living increases, or start from where we are today?
With all this complexity, how would you know if you are doing it right? Will nudges of the funding formula solve our problems of entrenched segregation, high dropout rates, unemployment and poverty?
They haven’t yet. There is little evidence that they will.
Why do we spend our time with small nudges in the funding formulas if they don’t solve our problems?
The real test of this funding formula is not whether it produces equal finding, but whether it produces positive results, especially for those who have been left behind.
Here is how to tell if the funding formula is working:
- Does this funding significantly improve attendance, test scores, graduation, college attendance and employment rates?
- Does this funding ensure that every student experiences the same environmental conditions and educational opportunities?
If students in impoverished or highly segregated areas are having to learn in buildings that are too hot or too cold, or unable to take advanced classes that lead to better futures, the formula isn’t working.
Our test for school funding shouldn’t be the equality of the funding, but the equity of the results.
1. View education from a student perspective, not a school perspective. Too often we fund schools without solving the education, health, career, and higher education needs of our students. When we look at how to solve student needs with funding, we can create effective and cost effective solutions tied directly to the needs, goals and outcomes of our children.
2. Fund education, not school districts. Out of School Time Programs, online learning, certification programs provide innovative, low cost solutions to fulfill educational needs of students throughout the year.
3.Support community schools. Wrap around health and social services at schools can help students and families access the services they need.
4. Fund to create results. In most areas of life, we try to match the resources to the challenge. If we are losing a battle, we rush to supply troops with the needed equipment and reinforcements to win. But if a school is failing we often do nothing, or worse, reduce the resources they have. Why are we so eager to surrender on this most important battlefield?
Here are the four ways that the Kirwan Commission will know if it’s work is effective:
- Real estate signs won’t list County Schools on their home for sale signs.
- People with good jobs will send their students to city schools.
- The conditions in the Baltimore City Public Schools are as conductive to learning as schools in wealthy districts.
- Test scores, graduation and employment rates are consistent across the state.
Education is our most important investment in our society and our economy. This is our opportunity to strengthen every part of our state, especially the children and the impoverished areas we have left behind.
Thank you for your consideration and your service.
Shan Gordon www.coolgreenschools.com