Black Public Schools Need Racially Equitable Funding in Baltimore

The Kirwin Commission is currently hearing testimony regarding the funding formula recommendation it will make to the Maryland General Assembly. As you can see in the 2-pager below, educational advocates are pushing for what is called “adequate funding.” However, I argue that while adequate funding is certainly a big part of the puzzle, it is not the only part of the puzzle.

The other issue is racially equitable funding for Black schools. As I’ve been writing, Black schools disproportionately face declining student population due to forced relocation (i.e. rental evictions, mortgage foreclosures, public housing demolition) and housing mobility (which are wonderful for families that receive the vouchers to move). But when student population declines, Black schools face declining budgets and permanent closure. When Black schools are permanently closed, neighborhoods lose a vital community resource. This is compounded by the massive reduction and loss of Black teachers, negatively affecting Black learning and Black labor.

Additionally, many Black students deal with lead poisoning and urban PTSD as a result of contemporary and historical trauma. Therefore, with all these factors in mind, “adequate funding” for Black schools is not enough. Equality is not equity. Black schools in disinvested, redlined Black communities must receive racially equitable funding from Baltimore City Public School System to help them provide more critical learning supports, hire more Black teachers, and serve as key public health hubs to address the health issues of lead poisoning and urban PTSD.

I also argue that racial equity — repairing the damage inflicted by white supremacy and investing more resources where there is a history of racial injustice — should be a priority of the Baltimore City Public School System regardless of what happens in Annapolis. And when I say invest, I mean every school that’s 90%+ Black should have added $2 million per year to address to whatever their final budget normally is in order to attend to issues wrought by centuries of racial inequities in Baltimore City.

In the current system of funding, Black schoolchildren, Black teachers, and Black schools themselves do not matter. Black youth in the Black Butterfly attend schools that are deeply underfunded and disproportionately closed. Black teachers have become less than a third of the teacher workforce in less than 12 years. We must begin to change this dynamic if we are to make the Black Butterfly whole.