The students are organizing a three-day demonstration on March 1-3 to protest the closing of six schools in Baltimore and the continued ignoring of a federal judge's order for more funding from the state to city schools. I've just been hearing whispers about it, but today, a senior who I had as a 9th grader came up to me with a serious look on his face.
"So, Mr. Epiph, are you having tryouts for baseball on March 1?"
"Yup... What, are you going to try out this year? That's great!"
He flashed me his grin, and said, "No, no, no, I'm not trying out. I just wanted to, um, ask you if you'd consider changing your tryouts. You see, there is the big protest those days."
I asked him to explain it to me. The federal judge, he explained, ordered the state to give the city $800 million in order to give Baltimore City students a fair education. He says they haven't, and now the state is pressuring the city to close schools and start bussing kids around the city, and the places they're choosing to close are all schools full of single-parent kids without a voice.
I said, "But isn't it better for the students if the school district is running more efficiently? Wouldn't I be able to have books for all my students if we weren't running buildings that didn't need to be run?"
He said, "Well, they wouldn't even have to close these schools if the schools were given the money promised us. And they do things like say the building is only half used, but if you look at the classes, they're full of forty kids to a room, when they should be spreading them around and having 20 students in a class room throughout the building.
"So this is just an excuse to hire less teachers, keep the class sizes near forty, and make it more difficult for kids who already don't get to school that often to get to school."
I blinked at him a couple of times, slightly embarassed that he had spent much more time than me thinking about this issue.
Then, I said, "I'm all for a non-violent protest, but why does it have to be three days?"
"Because," he said. "Grasmick, Ehrlich, and Copeland didn't pay attention when we did it last year for a day, and we think three days will get their attention." He then gave me the itinerary for the protests after I said I was worried that kids would protest by sitting at home and watching TV. On Wednesday, they'll be at the state board of education; on thursday, they'll be at the headquarters of BCPSS; and on Friday, they'll be at City Hall.
I told him that my feelings about baseball is that while I'm supportive of a protest, that the protestors need to know that their protests mean sacrifice, and that might mean being on the baseball team. I did tell him, however, that anyone could still come back to school and try out for baseball if they attended the rallies, and that I would overlook the always-ignored rule that you have to be in all your classes that day to participate in after-school activities (always ignored because it's impossible for an after school activities coordinator and coach to check on this.)
Anyhow, that's life in a Baltimore City Public School. I love a good political protest that means something. I hope the kids make themselves known. I also find it deeply amusing that this kid was "assigned" to talk to me about changing my baseball tryouts days. As if. I've got some arms to get into shape so we can win the city championship.
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