As you can see in his television commercial below, Steve Schuh has a plan for improving the quality of public education in Anne Arundel County. Unfortunately, it’s not a good plan.
Let’s take a moment to think out loud about why anyone wants to improve the quality of public education. Two reasons:
One is to help our children become high functioning adults. We want them to be happy and successful, whatever that means for them. To do that, they need to be able to communicate effectively, verbally and in writing, and to understand life, society and the economy. And they need to know how to think for themselves, what it means to be creative – and how to relate to and appreciate other people. Parents and life experiences have their role, of course, but so do the schools our children attend. It’s a very important role, the value of which depends heavily upon the quality and commitment of their teachers and the resources those teachers have to help our children learn.
There is, also, a second objective that pertains to the quality of education at the specific schools your children attend. It’s not enough that your children be well-educated in a general sense. You also want to make sure that they are educated well enough to be competitive for jobs and college admissions when they graduate. We all want the best for our children. It’s okay if they’re as well educated and as competitive as their counterparts in other counties and states, but it’s not okay if your children are less competitive. It’s not okay.
Mr. Schuh’s opponent in the race for County Executive – who is endorsed by the Teachers Association – wants to make sure your children’s teachers are paid competitive salaries so that the county can keep and attract the very best. He wants to make sure they have the classroom resources they need to help them teach your children. He not only wants to continue to improve the quality of your schools, he wants to make sure all the children in the county receive the same, high quality, competitive education no matter where they live and go to school.
And to all this, Steve Schuh’s counter-proposal, his response is what? We’ll, listen to his commercial. Read his statements. It’s Steve’s “big idea” that the county replace the 12 community high schools you now have with 24 smaller, neighborhood high schools. It’s a plan that he freely admits will take decades to accomplish. That’s right. It’s a plan for your children’s children.
And at what cost? Larger schools cost less per student to build and operate than smaller schools. Larger schools can offer a greater variety of curricular and extra-curricular programs – academic, creative and athletic. (Not incidentally, smaller schools will cost some of your children the opportunity to obtain the scholarships for which they might have qualified as students in larger high schools.)
Neighborhood schools are a form of de facto segregation, not just with respect to race and ethnicity, but also family income. Your kids grow up going to the neighborhood elementary and middle school. And now Steve wants them to stay in the neighborhood and go to a high school down the street. It sounds convenient, but its too easy and isn’t going to help your children develop into the adults they need to be – even if it made academic and fiscal sense, which is doesn’t.
One of the great things about larger, community high schools is that they give diverse young people an opportunity to meet and get to know other children from different neighborhoods – the way it will be for them, eventually, on the job and on the campuses where many of them will one day attend college.
Is proposing that Anne Arundel County replace its 12 community high schools with 24 neighborhood high schools over the next 20, 30 or more years really the best idea Steve Schuh can come up with to improve the quality of public education? Or is it just one more reason not to vote for him?
What’s that building in the picture below? It’s what’s now called Maryland Hall For The Creative Arts. It used to be Annapolis Senior High School where my 105 year old aunt who still lives in Annapolis went to high school, my mother, my older sister – and me too. Good to know that it’s still hanging in there, better than ever from what I can tell, and that it’s been put to good use for the greater community it continues to serve.