And the wolf wins again
A few months ago, the CEO of Baltimore City Schools claimed the schools were in debt to the tune of 130 million dollars for the next school year. Notices were sent to principals telling them how much less money they would have for the next year. Principals began talking about teachers who would be let go; services that would be eliminated. Everyone acted as if they believed these things would come to pass. No matter that this song has been sung every year for the past several years.
The new mayor went to Annapolis and cried wolf, wolf; the wolf is at our very door. Community associations marched; children wrote letters; legislators from Baltimore City demanded that the Governor give the City more money. Save our schools. Save the children. Keep the wolf from the door. And so he did.
The Mayor took money away from the police department in a city that has had its highest murder rate in decades for two years running. The Governor and the city came up with 180 million dollars over the next 3 years. And so once again, the Baltimore City public schools cried wolf and once again they were rescued. The Governor did request gently (he is running for re-election) that the city schools might want to look at cutting expenses.
Several years ago Baltimore City Public Schools negotiated this great new contract that was supposed to reward teachers for leadership and additional duties. Teachers were going to have better results with students and stay longer. It hasn’t worked. Baltimore City teachers are among the highest paid in the state and the students are among the lowest achieving. On average, city teachers make about $6,000 more than neighboring Baltimore County with lower turnover and better test scores if they mean anything. The City now wants to re-negotiate the contract that is coming up for renewal this month. The president of the union says Baltimore City teachers work harder than other teachers in the state of Maryland. They may be working harder but they are producing less.
Baltimore City also refuses to close schools with significantly declining enrollment. Buildings meant to hold 350 children hold 200. But they still have a principal and the other administrative accoutrements that cost money. All of these buildings must be maintained. All of these costs enter into the City’s per pupil cost being about $2000 more than its Baltimore County neighbor.
But not to worry. The City schools do not need to control costs. They do not need to operate efficiently. Come next year, we will all hear the wolf howling yet again. The marchers will come out, the legislators will wring their hands and cry for the poor children of Baltimore City. Once again the City schools will be saved. Whoever said you can cry wolf too often? Hasn’t happened yet in Balmor Hon.