Communities need to make their own decisions on schools

School closed

This post is  by Antwain Jordan, a senior at Morgan State University and Co-Executive Director of the Baltimore Algebra Project.

Here is what he says about why communities need to make decisions about schooling:

I recently found about Baltimore’s plan to close schools and renovations in an article in The Baltimore Sun.  I believe that this poses an amazing opportunity  for Baltimore for school facilities and programming with 2.8 billion dollars to renovate school buildings. But, I wondered who controls this funding?

As I read further, I saw that there was an M.O.U.(Memorandum of Understanding) between the Maryland Stadium Authority, Baltimore City, the state of Maryland, and Baltimore city schools, none of whom are community members, even if they purport to know/represent the interest of the community.

In addition to that the times for the communities to offer input they are difficult to find out about, which deters community involvement and awareness. This is a serious issue because schools in general are resources for the community because they are the institutions that equip and educate the people of the community.

Communities are being kept in the dark about the decisions that are being made about schools. It would be like someone saying to you that they want to remodel your house but you can’t have any control over the remodeling but you could have input, but then they don’t ask you for any input.

The next issue I have with this plan is that the planned facilities are not planning to accommodate the people of the community. Most of the building plans for the newly built and renovated builds are significantly smaller than the ones that exist now. These schools are community schools and making them smaller means they will not have the capacity to serve all of the students in any given community because it’s substantially smaller than the original building.  This would be like you having a family of 5 but the remodeling plans is only for a family of 3 and the remodelers pick which 3 people live in the new house.

The last, and maybe the biggest, issue I have with the plan is that the people who are in the communities now won’t be the same people there at the end of the ten years. Gentrification is rapidly displacing predominantly black and low income communities. Wealthier residents can pay the kinds of taxes needed to keep these new facilities running. So the black families are being swept out of the neighborhoods in order to make way for that money. Johns Hopkins University has been engaged in this process as they invoked eminent domain to displace long-time residents of a neighborhood called Middle East in order to bring in more affluent residents to populate the neighborhood. This plan has been well documented. Plans to compensate the community members, give local residents jobs, or allow all of them to send their children to the new school that Hopkins built have not materialized.

I worry that a similar scenario is likely to come to pass in the process of city-wide school closings and renovations. Already there is reneging on the agreement to renovate schools. Lake Clifton, a school that has been promised renovations for years, is not going to be renovated after all, according to a recent report.

The state and the city claim the project will be exponentially more expensive then first expected. This too is being done without the consultation of the community. This is unacceptable. First the people of Baltimore are promised new and quality buildings, which they rightfully deserve. Then the process begins without their consultation or input when they should be the ones controlling the process. Now, for some, the opportunity is in jeopardy all together and most people are none the wiser.

Unless the community takes control over the decision making process for the resources for their community, then this beautiful opportunity and political moment will turn into a repeat of history where black people will be receiving sub-par educations and will not reap any of the benefits of this beautiful opportunity. I urge communities to get aware, get angry, get involved and take the control of this plan, or be doomed to marginalization and being deprived of what is rightfully ours.

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