Yes, students might be doing just fine in terms of per-pupil funding. But you have to step foot in a school and see it’s surrounding community to see how it’s really doing.

That’s why per pupil spending is not a good metric. I have heard the criticism a million times: how can Baltimore City Public Schools be so bad if it’s the third most funded school system in America? Critics will point to surrounding Montgomery and Howard counties as evidence for why the conundrum and contradiction.

Well, have you been to Baltimore? If so you would see the neighborhoods and communities some of our kids live in. An education system isn’t meant to be a band-aid on problems much larger than many of us can control. Baltimore City has nine of 10 students living in poverty, while Montgomery and Howard Counties are two of the richest in the nation.

Poverty and family income are as much if not bigger indicators of academic achievement and success as per pupil spending — again, an education system can’t be a band-aid for all these problems. Step foot in any Baltimore City school besides a few top-tier magnet schools and see the devastation and hopelessness so many kids feel for yourself.

The school system cannot succeed if the city itself is failing, because all these things matter. The gaps between a predominantly black or Hispanic districts and their white counterparts is not per pupil spending. I can conjecture that you can have double the per pupil spending for black and Hispanic school districts compared to white ones and that still wouldn’t be enough to close the gap that’s there from a city’s unequal system and infrastructure.

To go to school in an inner-city school district also means to live in an inner-city community. I can’t tell you how normal it is for these kids to be on lockdown, how desensitized they are to violence.

The problem goes far beyond just the education system. The problem goes so much deeper and that’s why it’s so hard to fix. Again, come to Baltimore and see for yourself whether it’s conducive to learn in some of these communities. More money and resources help, but at there’s so much damage already that sometimes the problem doesn’t seem fixable.

Written by

Believer, Baltimore City special ed teacher, and 2:40 marathon runner. Diehard fan of “The Wire,” God’s gift to the Earth. E-mail: ryanfan17@gmail.com

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