Mar 15, 2004
As the financial crisis surrounding a 58 million dollar deficit in the Baltimore City school budget has come to a head, high-school and middle school students in the public schools have organized protests against any and all forms of funding cutbacks.
In December, small groups demonstrated several times outside city Board of Education headquarters on North Avenue. They were protesting the layoffs of 750 teachers and administrators, which included curriculum specialists who develop quality programs in science and liberal arts. In February, students went on school buses along with their teachers and parents to participate in a union-sponsored rally in Annapolis, calling for more funding for public schools. This caused a little outcry by the Ehrlich administration, saying that school resources should not be used for such purposes.
In recent weeks, as school officials threatened teachers with pay cuts and furloughs or more massive layoffs, students answered his outrageous assertion. Insisting on their right to a decent education, they addressed how various cost-cutting proposals would directly impact their education and future.
While city and state officials continue to argue over how to pay less to the schools, students took action on their own. On March 9, 600 students from several different schools organized a one-day student strike, marching from City Hall to the state Board of Education headquarters, a few blocks away. Carrying signs saying, "Where are our school supplies?" they protested crowded classrooms, old textbooks, insufficient computer equipment and decaying buildings. Their presence could not be ignored in the streets of downtown Baltimore that day.
The students are not leaving it up to city officials. They remain determined to organize in their own interests. They are right because there is money to be had for the schools – but only if those concerned fight for it. Students, parents, teachers all have a reason to make their demands known.