The Marc Steiner Show

Marc on Mayor’s Control Over Baltimore Schools

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Yesterday’s Sun carried a story about Mayor Sheila Dixon’s desire to
reclaim control of Baltimore City Schools. She was always troubled
by the state takeover, as were many of us. She is being encouraged by all the other Mayors who have taken control of their city’s schools.

I remember when State Superintendent Dr. Nancy Grasmick made her move
to control the management of city schools. We aired a number of
conversations in this debate. I was very doubtful then of the logic
of the move. More importantly the state’s bureaucracy was no more
nimble or creative in its work, or willing to take the risks necessary
to change the city schools than the city school’s entrenched
Paleolithic-minded bureaucracy.

It was not until the Baltimore City Board of Education’s leadership
and direction changed that things began to move. More importantly it
was not until parents, students and teachers started to demand charter
schools that any movement took place. Ultimately, it was when Dr.
Andres Alonso arrived that our city schools began to make the
radical leaps needed to shake the lethargy out of aging special
interests. Now our schools have begun to blossom. Students,
parents, teachers and principals are beginning to be heard, held
accountable and be made part of running our schools.

The Board and the new CEO and our schools seem to be operating almost
independently of the state or the city. Things are changing. The
state needs to get out of the way. The city should not get in the
way. Maybe an entirely new partnership has to be created between the
city and our schools. Perhaps we have not invented the next step, yet.
The Mayor and the School CEO need some quiet time together to think
this through. City officials, the CEO, the school board, parents,
teachers, students, and our business and philanthropic leaders need to
spend some time thinking calmly and clearly about the future.

There is no going back to old paradigms and designs. There is no
handing pack power to old models of control and management. We need
to be moving forward to new ideas, not stuck in 20th century power
politics playing with the lives of our children.

We have a unique opportunity here. Let’s build it not blow it.

Written by Marc Steiner

Marc Steiner

The Marc Steiner Show airs Monday thru Friday from 10AM to Noon on WEAA 88.9 FM. The show covers the topics that matter, engaging real voices, from Charm City to Cairo and beyond. Call us at 410.319.8888 or email us to participate live in the show, or share your comments on our site! Aren’t in Baltimore but want to listen? Stream the show live.


  1. Strange that Mayor Dixon appointed Eric White to the panel scrutinizing school board applicants. Could it be that Dixon is not a fan of Alonso? Can it be that what Dixon really wants is not necessarily to control the school system as such, but to counter the current superintendent?

    I dunno. Seems like the Mayor has a lot to handle now, and I wish her well and GodSpeed in dealing with those myriad issues. Will anyone benefit is she dilutes her resources and attention by taking on the school system? I’m not seeing a problem that requires her intervention. Not yet, anyway.

  2. I agree with you, Marc. Alonso is already putting in place the radical changes and reform needed, which is a what a “chancellor” of schools would do. This is happening in DC under Mayor-appointed Michelle Rhee.

    Alonso is very popular with parents and most education advocates. If the Mayor decides to make the move to takeover schools, it would be a huge mistake for her and probably for the students of Baltimore City. Many would organize in support of Alonso and we don’t need this kind of political distraction from our efforts in education.

    The Mayor, who I generally support, needs to work more closely with the school system and Alonso. I’m not sure what her relationship with Alonso is like, however, I really don’t see that her committment to the school system is significant. The school system has been flat-funded under both O’Malley and Dixon. They claimed to have increased per pupil funding, however, that increase is due to the decrease in student enrollment. And student enrollment is decreasing b/c the school system is stressed and inadequate, due to the lack of attention it has received from our leaders for many years.

    The City budget is growing; we’re becoming wealthier. The contribution to the schools should grow proportionately with the budget, at the very least. I detest the “decrease in student enrollment” rationale for maintaining the same funding level for schools when our schools are still grossly inadequate. If the Mayor wanted to help, she can give the schools more money and with that, her place at the table to contribute to the reforms being made. Baltimore City needs to catch up with their county neighbors as they increase their local contribution to their schools.

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