In Baltimore, Maryland, thousands of public school students are forced to attend school despite no working heat in the middle of winter.
Baltimore, which is the biggest city in the richest state in the richest country in the world, has continued to drastically underfund its public schools. As Maryland gubernatorial candidate and former NAACP president Ben Jealous pointed out, Maryland’s Republican-led state government has cut school funding in Baltimore by $26 million over the past two fiscal years:
Baltimore Schools are now underfunded by hundreds of millions of dollars, with the amount of state support on pace to decrease from $878 million in FY 2016 to $852 million in FY 2018.
— Ben Jealous (@BenJealous) January 4, 2018
However, while funding may be part of the issue, another glaring problem is that school administrators are failing to spend the money allocated to improving school facilities, resulting in the funds being reverted back to the state due to a lack of action. The Baltimore Sun reported that city schools were forced to return as much as $28 million in 2015 for failure to finish projects within a required window. Some projects were never completed because administrators failed to ask for enough money to adequately complete the project.
“We shouldn’t be closing schools because the heat doesn’t work,” Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh said in a public statement. “If we are getting money from the state we should be using it. We need every penny we can get.”
Pictures from outraged parents and educators have surfaced on Twitter of kids wearing head-to-toe winter clothing in classrooms, and one student reportedly told her mother that she was unable to feel her feet while in class. Some have started sharing a GoFundMe campaign to provide heaters to Baltimore schools as the Atlantic region continues to get pummeled by temperatures on par with Mars.
Black and Brown children attending school in frigid weather with little to no heat is a human rights violation! Join @NWBlackWomen on Jan 9 for the next @BaltCitySchools board meeting to have our voices heard: https://t.co/XUSSqO8BxH pic.twitter.com/hYtJIx7SCV
— NW Black Women (@NWBlackWomen) January 3, 2018
Hey Twitter this is my bro Aaron Maybin who is a educator here in Baltimore! Currently his classroom has no heat and have electric issues. This is not the only case there a plenty of classrooms just the same pic.twitter.com/KFT3Dx6pG0
— www.itsdjflow.com (@ITSDJFLOW) January 3, 2018
The lack of heat in some Baltimore City schools is unreal…we were at our after school program earlier this week and I heard the lady on the announcements say “Don’t let us not having heat stop you from coming to school tomorrow”…that isn’t right
— Torrey Smith (@TorreySmithWR) January 4, 2018
The cold conditions inside Baltimore City schools have prompted teachers to ask for the city to close down schools until the buildings can be heated. Baltimore Teachers’ Union President Marietta English formally made the request in a letter to Baltimore school system CEO Sonja Santelises. Four schools were closed on Wednesday, while two others sent students home early. All city schools were closed on Thursday due to frigid temperatures.
Scott Alden is a freelance contributor covering national politics, education, and environmental issues. He is a proud Toledo University graduate, and lives in the suburbs of Detroit.