Baltimore’s failing school system is making school choice the only hope for students, education activist says
School choice could be the solution to Baltimore's dismal student test scores, an education activist said after the city's well-funded schools reported some of the worst results in the state.
Nearly nine out of 10 Baltimore City public school students are not proficient in math, and about 80% of elementary schoolers weren't proficient in English, according to a recent Maryland State Department of Education report. Meanwhile, the school system has one of the largest budgets in the country.
"The reason why we have such continual low performance in education for Baltimore City students is because we have a disconnect between the higher-ups — the administration — and the people who are actually in the classroom," Denisha Allen, founder of Black Minds Matter, a Black student advocacy group, told Fox News.
"Baltimore City Public Schools have been doing really poorly," she continued. "They've been doing really poorly for decades."
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In the Baltimore City Public Schools, the four-year high school graduation rate is 69%, the lowest in the state. In addition to the low district-wide proficiency, 23 schools reported zero students proficient in math.
Allen said funding isn't the problem.
Baltimore's education budget is the fourth-highest funded large school system in the country, ranking only behind New York, Boston and Washington, D.C. And Charm City's school budget increased 16% this school year, up to $1.62 billion, according to the city.
"There's so much money, so little result," Allen told Fox News.
She said education outcomes would improve if parents received a portion of the $21,000 that Baltimore city schools spends on each student.
"That's the idea we call school choice, education freedom, where a parent can take that backpack of funds, go to a charter school, go to a private school, maybe they choose to homeschool their kid," she told Fox News. "The idea is that we're not funding a system, we're funding students."
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"Parents are able to shop around for the best learning environment for their kid, and then that parent can enroll them in that school," Allen continued. "Maybe it's a home-school program. Maybe it's an online virtual school. Maybe it's a private school. Maybe it's a charter school. Maybe that public school actually did work for that one kid and they stayed there."
School choice allows tax dollars to follow a student as opposed to a specific school district, enabling parents to put that money towards public, private, charter, online, or home-school options they deem best for their child.
But Baltimore officials said there's more to education than test results.
"The challenges of educating students in areas with high concentrations of poverty along with historic and chronic levels of underfunding are clear and require greater discussion," Baltimore City Schools spokesperson André Riley said in a statement. "Measuring student achievement is more complex than quoting numbers from a spreadsheet and writing inflammatory media summaries and headlines to earn internet clicks."
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Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott similarly told reporters last month the test scores are not "the full picture."
Baltimore is also home to the majority of the lowest-rated public schools in Maryland. Of the 149 public schools in the city, 75% are rated two out of five stars or below, according to state data.
"Baltimore City had one five-star school in all of the district schools," Allen said. "Only one school was considered to be high-caliber."
"I would think that there would be more outrage on the taxpayer front," Allen said. "There would be more outrage on the administration and more outrage at the state level to see what's happening in Baltimore."
Allen said more money won't help the "failing" system.
"The problem that we have is that we've been doing the same thing over and over," Allen said. "The only remedy that we have to this situation is more money."
"That's not the remedy," she said. "The remedy is freedom."
To watch the full interview with Allen, click here.