THE BETTER SCHOOL INITIATIVE
The Better Schools Initiative was founded in 2005 in response to concerns that Reservoir Hill’s neighborhood school, John Eager Howard Elementary School, was threatened with closure as part of a city-wide process to reduce school facility space. The Better Schools Initiative organized parent and community response. More than 250 residents participated in community meetings, a door-to-door petition drive, city-wide planning meetings addressing facilities needs and closures, and ongoing advocacy.
The result was that John Eager Howard was secured, funds were targeted in the city planning process for facility improvements, and the present Parent-Teacher-Community Organization (PTCO) was founded.
At present through the Better Schools Initiative, RHIC advocates for increased school funding for both facilities and academic needs; more funding for under-funded subjects such as art, music, and physical education; and reforms that decrease class size and improve teaching.
RHIC believes that our public schools can best provide an excellent education to our children if families and community residents are engaged as full partners in the education process and decision-making.
The Facilities Funds
The facilities planning process resulted in roughly $2.7 billion identified as needed for school renovations across the city. Specific figures were provided for each school, and the planning process was captured in the Comprehensive Educational Facilities Master Plan.
The nearly $2.7 billion targeted through the facilities planning process has never been advanced as a package. The Facilities Master Plan is being used as a guide as to how to allocate capital funds.
Current Central Funding Objectives
The following are primary objectives for increasing school funding:
1. Getting the State of Maryland to comply this year with Judge Kaplan’s 2000 ruling in the Bradford v. Maryland State Board of Ed., by allocating the roughly $1 billion it has withheld from Baltimore City students. This amount is in addition to Thornton funding.
2. Passiing Senate Bill 825 - Primary and Secondary Education – Aging Schools Program – which would redirect 15% of the annual funds available for school construction and renovation into the Aging Schools Program. The purpose of the Aging Schools Program is to protect school buildings from deterioration, improve the safety of students and staff, and enhance the delivery of educational programs.
3. Passing House Bill 565 - Primary and Secondary Education – Deficiencies in Schools Correction Fund – which would require the governor to fund a new state program, the Deficiencies in Schools Correction Fund at $250 million a year for 5 years. The money would be to primarily fix those things related to health and safety deficiencies like fire safety, water, communication and deficiencies in the building that most impact student achievement - like bad acoustics and lighting.
Take some time to visit your neighborhood school, volunteer, help organize a work day at the school, get to know your neighborhood schools teachers and administrators, and get involved. Parents, teachers, administrators, students and community residents need to assert more influence of their neighborhood school and demand better results.
If you are a Reservoir Hill resident you can contact the Parent-Teacher-Community Organization (PTCO) at John Eager Howard through Darryl Smith at email@example.com.
To be effective, parents and school advocates need training in the school system, and how to organize and advocate.
The Baltimore Education Network (BEN) sponsors an outstanding eight-week training course for parents: Parent Leadership Development Training. Leaders from across Baltimore take part. Topics that get covered include: Understanding Organizing Concepts and Why We Must Organize; How to become a Better Advocate for your Child; How to Maneuver BCPSS; Understanding the No Child Left Behind Act; and How to Provide Support to Your Child’s School.
To get more information on the Parent Leadership Development Training course, contact BEN at 410-366-8533, or go online at http://www.civicworks.com/programs/education/ben