The cold streak that just blasted the Northeast closed dozens of schools in Baltimore City because of outdated heating and cooling systems. There are squabbles over who or what lays at fault; is it mismanagement or a lack of funds? But while the arguments persist on how this happened, the deeper issue is left unaddressed.
If you could pick any school district to send your kids to in the state of Maryland would you pick the Baltimore City school district? Of course not. You would pick any other district. Anywhere OUTSIDE of the city. And that’s a trend that stands for just about any part of the United States.
If you want to determine the quality of a school the first thing you need to do is look at the value of the homes in the community around it. The higher the value of the community the better the school. The Education Department reports that high poverty areas invest, on average, 1,200 less dollars per year on a student then the districts with least amount of poverty (for a school with 2,000 students that’s 2.4 million dollars less per year being invested into the high poverty school).
The second thing that you need to do? Look at the color of the students going there. High minority areas get on average 2,000 dollars less per student per year then low minority areas (that’s a 4 million dollar difference for comparable schools with 2,000 students).
It’s the Americanized version of the caste system. If you live in a middle income home as a child and want to compete against a child from a high income home you’re going to need to work twice as hard to be competitive. Now imagine if you are in a home living well below the poverty line.
A child that is going to school at Northwestern High School in Baltimore City (5% of its students are enrolled in AP courses, the average SAT score of its students is 960, and only 27% of its students are proficient in reading OR math) has to compete against a child going to Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda (60% of its students are enrolled in AP courses, the average SAT score is 1330, 97% of its students are proficient in reading, and 98% are proficient in math).
We tell our children that the most important thing in determining how successful they will be in life is their education and yet for our most vulnerable kids we don’t invest in that education. What does that tell them about what we think of their future? It’s no wonder that dropout rates are so high and that education isn’t taken seriously in inner city schools. Even if they graduate they’ve been given a subpar education that isn’t worth as much as the education being given to children from more affluent families.
We tell our kids that the way out of poverty and crime is education, then don’t give them an opportunity to get an education. Without being given a reasonable way out many students resort to gangs and other criminal activities to try and make the best of their situations. Crime spikes, and we use this to justify giving the school districts even less funding which only exacerbates the problem.
We need to address the cycle of poverty and the continued segregation of our inner city schools by investing in the community and schools before we can reasonably expect the situation to improve. Once we start investing equally among our schools, regardless of income or race, then we can expect to see every suburb and city of country become well rounded and productive areas of society.