Baltimore City Public School Student Demands the Right to an Excellent Education

Flanked by her teacher, high school sophomore Keyma Flight spoke powerfully during the public comment segment of the February 14, 2017 meeting of the Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners. The meeting was preceded by a demonstration of teachers on the steps of North Avenue, who rallied against the threat of a thousand layoffs with chants of “Fully Fund Our Schools.” That’s a demand Mayor Catherine Pugh and Governor Larry Hogan need to hear loud and clear.

They also need to hear what Keyma said:

Hi, my name is Keyma Flight and I am a sophomore at Western High School and I apologize if what I say may be redundant to what others have said but the redundant is the important- in this case especially.                                 

Will there be a chance that these layoffs will cause great schools, such as the school I attend, to underperform? As you cut valuable teachers and staff you cut morals, safe places, and valuable attributes associated with these people that go. I’ve had teachers that have helped me in a range of things from algebra to depression. When I was hospitalized for such issues, not only did my family of educational workers come to see me but teachers and guidance counselors. People of education are so much more than lessons and books. They could be so much more if you would just help. To think I could lose all that as easily as a couple of months is frustrating and hurtful. 

This could be a harsh reality for so many other students. There are teachers I know that work endlessly. My mother is a perfect example. Sleepless nights, countless meetings, and working until exhaustion. She could lose her job, one of the most powerful teachers in her building, could lose her job, simply because the board could not protect her as they have claimed they would have for years.        

Teachers that stay until the school closes to make sure their students get the most beneficial way of learning possible could be forced to leave behind their excellency. 

If you don’t want to think of it in an emotional way, think of it intellectually. You cut an outstanding math teacher simply because of their seniority, or lack thereof. You cut them based off slips of paper and not how students respond to them. Have you ever interviewed students before cutting teachers? Because if you can formally evaluate every teacher in the city there’s a chance you can interview two or three students for each teacher to see how they actually perform. Maybe it’s not as easy as I say, but as I said, there’s a chance. 

 Also, why is it that casino money comes before my future in education? My city school future in education to be exact since county schools funding appears to not be getting cut. So this is not only an issue but a class, and maybe even racial issue. According to baltimorecityschools.org, 80.6 percent of children in city schools are African-American and 64.7 percent of these students have low income. And according to census.gov 62.8 percent of students in the county are white and only 9.1 percent of this population is in poverty. 

What does this say to you? To me it says young, poor students of color aren’t worthy of this money and the teachers that help guide them aren’t either. 

Yet casinos are. 

How can you invest in your young people yet ignore their cries to keep the teachers that further their learning and their self-worth. Protesting is not petty bickering but a way to show that we are fearful, we are upset, and we want better for our futures. Contracts are coming between children.       

Please, as a student who deeply values so many of her teachers, please think, rethink, and re-rethink your decision for layoffs. Thank you. 

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