Build Schools. Build Neighborhoods.SENATE BUDGET COMMITTEE PASSES THE BALTIMORE CITY SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION BILL UNANIMOUSLY!We’re one step closer to achieving $1 billion for city school teachers, students, and neighborhoods!After winning a 107-30 vote in the MD House of Delegates last week, the Senate Budget and Tax Committee unanimously passed the Baltimore City School Construction bill today. Not only have we succeeded in getting more than a super majority of the votes, we are also getting significant bipartisan support.But our work is NOT DONE. The full Senate has to pass the bill before the Governor can sign it into law. The Senate floor vote could happen this week – we will send out a message asking you to join us to witness this historic event.We are also meeting with senators right now, leading up to this critical vote. If you are able to make calls or join us in Annapolis, please let us know!A HUGE THANKS to all of our partners – Baltimore Education Coalition, ACLU of Maryland, BUILD, Greater Homewood, CHAI, CLIA, Child First Authority, Baltimore Curriculum Project, Advocates for Children and Youth, the Baltimore Teacher Union, American Federation of Teachers, KIPP, Reservoir Hill Improvement Council, City Neighbors Charter, Downtown Baltimore Family Alliance, Elev8, Roland Park Parents, Baltimore Community Foundation, Fund for Educational Excellence, League of Women Voters, Seawall Development, Greater Baltimore Committee, Maryland IAF, and many more for being present and active over the past 3 months in Annapolis to move this bill forward.– Transform Baltimore Team
If you’ve been following the fate of the Baltimore City school construction bill, you were probably hoping for closure Wednesday night. The vote has been postponed to give legislators a chance to read the bill. Haven’t read the details yet yourself? Why wait? Download the PDF of HB0860 here. The bill returns to the floor March 21 at 10 a.m.
For national context on the state of the nation’s public school buildings, this article is also worth a look. It explains that a recent report estimates the cost of repairing America’s dilapidated school buildings at half a trillion dollars. Sounds like a whole lot. But in these days after the 10th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, it may be appropriate to note that Americans spent an estimated $1.7 trillion on that effort at nation building.
The time is ripe for nation building at home. Public school buildings are the right place to start.
These are three of the stories that jumped out at me this week. Lots of room to opine, but I am biting my tongue. (Trying my best, anyway). I said I’d spend only an hour a week on this blog. (Trying on that score, too.)
Methadone clinic next to Margaret Brent Elementary/Middle?
Denied. No sooner than it was proposed, the appeal to the zoning board was dismissed because the woman who filed it didn’t show. Big sigh of relief from parents. Adam Bednar from North Baltimore Patch covered the story:
Methadone Clinic Proposed Near Charles Village School, January 7, 2013
Zoning Board Dismisses Methadone Clinic Request, January 8, 2013
My questions: Who represents our public schools in cases like this one? Is it up to school administrators? Where is the school district in all this? And the city, which owns public school buildings? Or is it the sole responsibility of civic organizations and PTOs? Lucky for Charles Village parents, they have a strong neighborhood association and their schools have the complete support of the good people at Greater Homewood Community Corporation. The fact that the applicant didn’t show was a stroke of good luck. But what would have happened if she had?
Michelle Rhee tangos between limelight and hot seat
Michelle Rhee’s career should matter to everyone in Baltimore because it was Harlem Park Elementary/Middle that gave this notorious education reformer her start. Rhee made news this week in two ways, proving yet again her media savvy:
1) “The Education of Michelle Rhee” aired on PBS’s Frontline, January 8, 2013.
2) The national organization Rhee runs, Students First, put out their 2013 State Policy Report Card.
For coverage and criticism, see:
11 States Get Failing Grades on Public School Policies From Advocacy Group, Motoko Rich, New York Times, January 7, 2013
Michelle Rhee’s new state reform report card, Valerie Strauss, Washington Post, January 7, 2013
RheeFormy Logic & Goofball Rating Schemes: Comments & Analysis on the Students First State Policy Grades, Bruce D. Baker, School Finance 101, January 9, 2013
The Transform Baltimore campaign for 21st century city schools buildings forges ahead
No one who cares about education in Baltimore was watching Frontline on January 8, because something more exciting – and hopeful – was going on down on North Avenue. As BCPS CEO Andres A. Alonso, Ed.D. reported in a mass email:
Tonight, the Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners voted to approve the 10-year plan we proposed in November to overhaul and modernize our entire portfolio of school buildings. Over 10 years, this plan will renovate or replace 136 school buildings, vacate 26 school buildings, relocate 12 school programs and close 17 school programs. And when complete, our students will be in the 21st-century learning environments they need and deserve, and that so many of their peers in school districts across the state and nation already enjoy.
For coverage, see:
City school board OKs 10-year facilities plan: it will rely heavily on persuading lawmakers to approve measure, Erica L. Green, Baltimore Sun, January 8, 2013
The Sun piece reports that Jimmy Gittings, president of Baltimore’s principals union, is not on board with the focus on buildings. He is concerned about the District’s mismanagement of funds. He has given voice before to his concerns about principal firings and the principal turnover rate. (In 2011, the Sun reported that only one quarter of principals remained of those who were in place when Alonso was hired.) Good that the principals’ union isn’t behind new buildings? No. Good that it’s keeping the pressure on about the destabilizing effects of high principal turnover? Yes. (It is really, really hard to build trust with a public school principal in this climate. Maybe even harder than it is to build a new school.)
That aside, thanks to the good work of a lot of good people, the state of our school buildings is an issue engaged citizens can actually do something about. To take action, check out the new Transform Baltimore website. Buses are heading down to Annapolis for a major rally February 25, 2013. And they need some bodies to fill seats at some meetings between now and then. The website says it all. Do something.
The Transform Baltimore campaign is organizing a Speak Out, where teams representing any Baltimore City Public School can tell the powers that be about the state of their school buildings. The purpose is to inspire the political will to raise $2.8 billion through creative bond financing. Get in touch with the campaign if you’d like to get a team from your school a five-minute slot on the docket.
Lead in the water, windows painted shut, classrooms too hot in the summer and below zero in the winter – these are all good points to bring to the mic. Speak.