The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Students on track

Mar 13, 2006

At least 400 high school students left school to protest in front of City Hall and the Department of Education in Baltimore City. The school system plans to close five schools this summer, moving 5300 students to other buildings.

These Baltimore students, led by a student-run tutoring organization, pointed out that the conditions they face every day will not be addressed by these changes. One senior mentioned that he has between 37 and 40 students in each of his classes. Others said their schools lacked heat, books or even toilet paper. A sophomore mentioned how her teachers used their own money to buy paper for copying materials.

The students demanded smaller classes and a return of art and music classes – which had been cut as the system faced budget crisis after budget crisis.

Trying to defuse student complaints, an education department official said Baltimore City received the most funding of any system in the state of Maryland. As if that were an answer to the obvious lack of funds. Baltimore may have more – but its class sizes are twice what is recommended, its schools lack books and supplies, its furnaces don’t work and many of its roofs leak. And it’s not giving its students an adequate education.

All schools should have adequate funding, and big city systems need extra on top of that. Poorer areas need far more funding to make up for what the parents and grandparents of these students can’t give them, because they never got it from the school system when they attended.

The mayor met with five protesting students, but justified himself saying the city lacked the funding to meet the students’ demands. As usual, city and state officials only hear funding requests made by developers of fancy hotels, high-priced condos and well-connected contractors.

The politicians have failed these students. If the protests grow louder and larger, the politicians might make other choices. They certainly don’t listen to reason!