Equal ≠ Equitable: Give More to Students Who Need More

Note from BEE:

This is the second of a four-part series of student essays regarding the state of Baltimore City schools and how the 2018 statewide election can improve students’ educational experiences. Please join us each Sunday as we post a new one, then join us in person at the BEE Gubernatorial Candidate Forum on Education at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, May 30, where we hold candidates accountable to Baltimore City students, parents and teachers. Please RSVP on Facebook and sign up on EventBrite, so we know you’re coming. And if you take Carmen's advice and take to twitter, we encourage you to use #BEEforum to let the candidates know you'll be attending!

 

Baltimore City needs more funding to support all of the suffering students who are facing extra challenges. The city funding isn’t supporting our special education population or students who are living in poverty. Without appropriate supports, these students and their teachers are struggling. The students here are in a place of concentrated poverty with 24 percent of people in Baltimore living below the poverty line and an astounding 86.5 percent of BCPSS students living in poverty, and there is a wide range of special education children who aren’t getting the education they need. Our needs in the city are unique. Our struggle should mean an increase in the funding, not a decrease. This isn’t fair.

Baltimore and the state of Maryland need to give the school systems the money they need to reach a good point in education. We are not at a good point in education.

We aren’t reaching state standards largely because of a lack of appropriate staff, including mainstream curriculum teachers and special education teachers. If we aren’t getting enough funding to keep existing teachers and programs, school leaders will have to continue to take money out of their school’s budget and will have to cut some resources within the school just to get the necessities a school should have. Just to get the necessities any county school has. The new funding formula needs to remember all of us.

In Maryland, there are others counties getting the same amount of funding from the state as Baltimore City. Although that seems equal, it’s not equitable. The students in other counties may come from a household or zone area where money is spent differently.  In Baltimore City, there isn’t a system that works properly to to address all of our needs, including mental health, disabilities, or coming from a home where regular meals are not guaranteed. In some schools, like community schools, the students can get support on many or all of these issues at their school, but there is no type of program that will continuously follow them and support their needs as a city student. Once they graduate elementary or middle school where they may have had these services, there is no guarantee they’ll land somewhere that offers those same supports. They have to figure it out, and school alone is hard enough.

In the city, there are no high schools that advertise a program for special needs. The top high schools are tough to get into because of the entry requirements. Here in Baltimore City, all 8th graders have to apply to the high school they would like to attend. To be chosen, you have to be a student with certain grades and test scores. A special education student might not have these. So the top high schools are off the table. All that’s left are places that don’t have great numbers in graduation rates that inspire hope in our future.

The prevalence of special education needs in our city is the biggest reason why we need more funding. Access to these services affects students’ young childhood life and how they will develop as a person. The lack of special educators in our schools is horrific. My mom’s friend has a son with autism. He is in my grade and his mom, Toni, is worried about where he will go to high school next year because he doesn’t have the scores he needs to go to one of the best in the city. Toni can’t find anywhere to place her son in the city, and it’s just a daily struggle in her life. Yes, autism has its obstacles, but finding a safe environment for her son to go to school within the city shouldn’t be one of them. He should easily be able to access the education he needs. This needs to be corrected.

The level of Baltimore’s funding now isn’t anything grand. Our needs aren’t being met. That’s obvious due to the fact that our class sizes are too big, and we can barely get funding for heating. We’re not trying to take away from anyone else’s funding by needing more money; the reality is simply that we do not have enough to provide us with an equitable education. Do you think since we have less we don’t deserve more? State funding needs to consider what it takes to get the educational outcome they say they want.

We need your help. I am just one student trying to make educational outcomes better for kids in my city. I alone can’t change the way state funding works. Politicians make these decisions. Votes are what matter. Let the politicians know we can’t support them if they don’t support Baltimore’s students. To help, you could tweet at the governor and candidates for governor to show we care. Together, we can make a difference and change how my education, the education for Toni’s son, and the education of all other Baltimore students is funded. Show them my education matters.

Carmen Bravo is an 8th grade student at Patterson Park Public Charter School. She will be attending the Baltimore Polytechnic Institute next school year.