I pray that you are blessed beyond measure in the new year. And I pray that you’ll have hope, that becomes faith, that becomes inspired action for the dreams you hold most dear in 2021.
The challenges of 2020 have made me even more grateful for my family, all of whom are living inspiration and joy to me.
This year has also branded me with the urgency of building a new Baltimore.
A Baltimore where every child can love learning. A Baltimore where every school has proper heating and air conditioning. A Baltimore where 44% of young black boys and girls are on the honor roll, instead of missing more than three weeks of school each year.
While we grapple with vaccine distribution, rising positivity rates and new deaths, we must push teachers and students to the top of our discussions.
Each additional year of school is linked to higher incomes. But many of Baltimore’s children will have lost a full year of school because of the pandemic.
That loss of schooling represents a massive productivity loss for Baltimore City—especially because we are already experiencing declining revenues and population. Make no mistake, this is a decades-long economic impact potentially larger and more enduring than any other we face.
The good news is that we can get control of the situation. Our neighborhoods and families will be better off for decades if we used more of our pandemic aid to improve our schools and the lives of students, plus pay teachers more.
When the Maryland Legislature returns to session, urgent action items should include:
- Ensuring our high school and middle school teachers are in the first wave of persons to receive the vaccine.
- Updating every school’s ventilation system at once (and making sure the heating and cooling systems work).
- Authorizing hazard pay for public school teachers.
- Ensuring that every child regardless of school affiliation (public, charter, or private) has a free hot-spot and device for learning.
- Ensuring that, at a bare minimum, we have the same number of child care slots in Baltimore City that we did before the pandemic. (And yes, the pre-COVID-19 number was already woefully inadequate.)
Our shared urgency must be to ensure safe learning environments. We need our children back in their classrooms as quickly as humanly possible.
Our economic future depends on it.