With no incumbents on the ballot for Maryland’s Governor, there is much room for change and growth for the state in the coming year – perhaps in Baltimore more than anywhere else.
For years, equity for kids in Baltimore City has been an afterthought. But after a vibrant Education Forum last month, there is a lot to be hopeful for in the years to come.
After seeing the upcoming election as an opportunity to reimagine, the leadership team of Baltimoreans for Educational Equity (BEE) planned a forum focused on education with the crowded field of candidates on June 21, 2022. The moderators and participants uplifted important issues facing educators, families, and kids to the candidates vying for Maryland’s top elected spot.
BEE’s Leadership, along with a coalition of advocates, organized a pre-event questionnaire on issues aligned with BEE’s education priorities. The questionnaire prompted candidates to craft statements of candidate priorities, ranked. Candidate responses to the questionnaire granted them access to the forum and the opportunity to speak extemporaneously on priority issues for Baltimore’s education community.
Highlights from the Live Forum
More than 180 participants were also able to continue the conversation with candidates online. Questions submitted by the audience were upvoted for inclusion in real-time at the event. The most popular questions at the forum centered on student transit and teacher retention, including:
Teachers are leaving the workforce in droves after what many have described as their most difficult year in teaching yet. How will you work with MSDE and local jurisdictions to retain teachers in the workforce? What else can be done to improve teacher working conditions?
In response to this question, Tom Perez cited the need to ensure adequate teacher pay and mental health support systems while ensuring that the racial demographics of the profession match that of students in schools. John King went further in suggesting that while increasing starting salaries is important, working conditions that make it difficult for teachers to remain in the classroom should be a state priority to address, with the adequate distribution of school counselors as a prime example of an area of need. Doug Gansler agreed that teacher pay and infrastructure needed more adequate investment but added that teachers needed to feel safe from harm going to school and within school buildings.
Additional highlights include:
- John Baron on creating equitable transit opportunities for students and holding the MTA accountable
- Doug Gansler on increasing School Resource Officers (SROs) in public schools
- Ashwani Jain on single-payer healthcare and its relation to education outcomes
- John King on partnering with Baltimore City youth in enacting and elevating their ideas in regard to education policy
- Tom Perez on elected representation on school boards in Maryland
- While he was not able to attend the forum in person, Peter Franchot offered his perspective to voters on private school vouchers.
For more candidate responses to audience-submitted questions, visit BEE’s Youtube Channel.
How Candidates Measured Up
So how did the candidates score overall? While BEE doesn’t endorse candidates, the Leadership Team did award a letter grade to each candidate participant on their questionnaire responses. You can view a short list of BEE’s grades and view each candidate’s full response at educationcandidates.com.
BEE is ready to engage with candidates and all of those who care about education equity this election cycle and beyond. If you missed the Forum, you can catch the full recording.
If you’re ready to dive in and build with BEE, we’ve got you covered:
- Join LEE on July 12 for a Sample Ballot Social: RSVP
- Grab coffee with a member of the BEE leadership team to talk about the problems that most concern you and how you want to build with us next school year.
- BEE would love to see you at the Back to School Happy Hour on September 6
- Join BEE and the candidates for the Baltimore City School Board of Commissioners for a Meet and Greet on September 20
About the Authors
Ruth Farfel is a member of the Leadership Team for Baltimoreans for Educational Equity and Manager of Analysis and Engagement at The Fund For Educational Excellence. Ruth’s primary focus is providing support for regularly published reports, school choice resources.and district grants management.She advocates for families and children and works to dismantle systems of oppression and racism.
Celeste Perilla is the Director of Regional Impact in Maryland at Leadership for Educational Equity. A graduate of Baltimore Public Schools, her work centers on building community capacity, emphasizing the vital role of BIPOC and women leaders in positively impacting educational experiences in Maryland.