Baltimore: Raising Protesters and Little Else

Alessandra Mondolfi holds a sign against AR-15 weapons as she yells, "No More" during a protest against guns on the steps of the Broward County Federal courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018. Nikolas Cruz, a former student, is charged with killing 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

After the holidays, students return to school and usually custodians precede the students by a day to make sure the school is heated adequately and to get things ready after the hectic rush to get out in anticipation of Christmas…er, Winter break.  However, as CNN reported on January 4th, students returned to cold classrooms after the New Year. In one celebrated example, former Baltimore Raven and current teacher Aaron Maybin told CNN that the temperature in his classroom was 40 degrees. He showed pictures of students in heavy coats and hats trying to keep warm.

This prompted the city to close one-third of their schools, allow early dismissals at others, and then cancel all schools after that.  At the time, Sonja Sentelises, the school system’s CEO, told CNN the problem was because of custodians not keeping the schools warm during the break and old, antiquated heating systems that led to broken pipes, and the lack of insulation in most schools.  She said that this was due to years of underfunding of the Baltimore public schools.

However, the facts on the ground do not quite square with Ms. Sentelises’ analysis of the problem.  In fact, Baltimore had provided an additional $23 million in funding above and beyond what the usual formula dictates.  Among America’s top 100 cities, Baltimore ranks 4th in per pupil spending at $15,564. For that amount, one should expect a graduating class of future Harvard graduates educated in well-heated buildings.  For the current 2017-18 school year, Baltimore is spending well over $1 billion. Yet, one study found that in 13 high schools in the city, there were ZERO students proficient in math. On state tests in six elementary schools, ZERO students were proficient in math.  Even in the worst school in the country, there is usually at least one student who is proficient, but Baltimore breaks the mold.

If the school administration is derelict in their duties, the city is equally derelict.  Baltimore’s per capita homicide rate is now one of the worst in the country. In 2017, they set a single year record for murders which surpassed the previous record set in 2016.  The city is a fiscal mess and many areas are blighted and decaying. Get beyond the Inner Harbor area and one encounters war zone-like landscapes.

Amid all this fiscal and educational failure in Baltimore, Democratic mayor Catherine Pugh has managed to find over $100,000 in funding to provide buses for students to make the trip to Washington, DC on March 24th to protest guns.  In addition, the city will provide T-shirts and lunches for the participating students. She hopes that Baltimore will be well-represented in DC and is planning for at least 3,000 students to attend a march they likely know nothing about.

Baltimore Police Commissioner, whose department is doing a smashing job of increasing the city’s homicide rate, Darryl DeSousa chimed in and said he agrees with the mayor’s decision “1,000 percent.”  Obviously, DeSousa is a product of the Baltimore school system since he fails to grasp the concept of “percent.”

One wonders what $100,000 could have bought during that cold snap in early January that forced schools to close and students and teachers to freeze in classrooms.  Actually, we do have an idea. A GoFundMe site arose to provide things like space heaters and caulk for drafty classrooms. They managed to raise $17,000 and provided many, many space heaters.  Perhaps that $100,000 being spent on buses can be used to fix some of the broken pipes, heating systems, and drafty windows in Baltimore schools. How much insulation can be purchased with $100,000?

Excusing students from class for a day to protest in Washington also does wonders for academics.  Maybe they can count trees on the way, but one envisions them getting stuck once they get to triple digits.  Chances are that the overwhelming majority of these student protesters being “well-represented by Baltimore” know nothing about gun violence or gun control other than the shots they may occasionally hear in their neighborhood.  One can rest assured they know even less about the Second Amendment.

Still, this writer happened to be in DC the day of the last great march for gun control.  I was not there for that, but on vacation hoping to see some of the rich history of America peserved in the many museums along the National Mall.  Despite the large presence of marchers that crammed the lawn, the grating voice of Susan Sarandon and sleep-inducing songs of Sara McLachlan, the march achieved nothing.  One guesses that if adults who have actually graduated from high school want to express their constitutional rights, no matter how misguided the effort or their knowledge of the subject, it is expected and acceptable.  Let them vent for a day and show their ignorance.

Allowing students a day out of school and providing the transportation (T-shirts and lunches) for people who know squat about an issue is another matter altogether.  It is actions like this by the likes of Mr. DeSousa, Ms. Pugh and Ms. Sentileses that prove liberals in control of a city, a police department and a school system are a recipe for guaranteed failure.