A Crazy Idea for Baltimore Public Schools
Every time I take notice of how disproportionately black, poor and low-income Baltimore City Public Schools students are, I’m reminded of how the middle class has divested itself from public education. It’s widely accepted that a school’s socioeconomic composition impacts student performance; with a school system as poor as BCPSS, current and historical educational outcomes should be unsurprising.
What’s surprising is how we’ve encouraged well-meaning families to continue to divest from public education, through measures such as school vouchers and charter schools and even subsidizing poor families to move out of school districts.
Even if you support these measures, wouldn’t you need to eventually incentivize families to opt back in to public schools? Compulsory education isn’t exactly like the free market, particularly as school systems such as BCPSS are expected to perform as effectively as affluent school districts and high-performing charters while almost exclusively serving high needs students.
Wouldn’t it make sense to incentivize middle class families to invest back into BCPSS? What if, for example, the state of Maryland offered a yearly tax break of $1350–for say, up to four years–to families with school-aged children educated outside of the public school system to return to BCPSS? This incentive would also be available to encourage parents with school-aged children to move into Baltimore and enroll their children in BCPSS.
I’ve not thought this through enough to see how it would work mechanically or how to finance tax breaks, but the state is already funding the majority of Baltimore’s public school expenses and over the long run, diversifying the socioeconomic composition of BCPSS would conceivably lower expenses and improve educational outcomes.
Just a (admittedly crazy) thought.