‘We need more urgency’ Former U.S. secretary of education on fixing Baltimore City schools
2/28/2022 | Chris Papst
BALTIMORE (WBFF) — A former Secretary of the United States Department of Education says despite decades of failure, Baltimore City Schools can be fixed, but City leaders must treat the problem with urgency.
John King has spent his life in education. He can tell when a school system is struggling. He says, in Baltimore City, the consequences of a failing school system are dire.
“We’re setting up young people for a destination of poverty and despair,” King told Project Baltimore.
King says high levels of crime and violence have traumatized many students in Baltimore City. These issues impact their ability to learn. They don’t get the education they need for success, and the cycle begins again.
“You are setting up exactly the dynamic that produces the level of crime and violence that we see,” he said.
King, a Democrat, started as a teacher in Puerto Rico, and eventually became Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education during President Barack Obama’s administration. Now, he’s running for governor of Maryland with education as his primary focus.
King has watched recent Project Baltimore reports expose significant issues in Baltimore City Schools. In the last year, Project Baltimore uncovered an enrollment and grade changing scandal at Augusta Augusta Fells Savage Institute of Visual Arts. Another report exposed heartbreaking data from Patterson High School, where 77% of the students tested, according to one assessment, are reading at an elementary school level. And Project Baltimore found 41% of Baltimore City high school students earned below a 1.0 grade point average in the first three quarters of last school year.
“We have to acknowledge the results are not where we want them to be, the data are in some cases tragic,” said King.
But Baltimore City Schools CEO Dr. Sonja Santelises has not interviewed with Project Baltimore in years. Neither has anyone from her administration.
“We need more urgency around it from City leadership and state leadership,” King told Project Baltimore.
He says, if elected, he’d make himself available to the media and would speak with Project Baltimore about education issues.
“Absolutely. Look, I was a high school civics teacher. I believe part of the role of public officials is to be transparent, and the media has an important role to play,” said King. “There’ll be tough questions and public officials need to answer those tough questions. It’s part of how the public can see what their leaders are doing and ultimately hold them accountable.”