The next priorities: school buses and universal pre-k
I sat in yesterday on Dr. Alonso's talk to the Associated Student Congress of Baltimore City. He told the students about three priorities on his mind for the 2009-2010 school year. One we've already reported on: an expansion of vocational education to better prepare students for the workforce and meet the high demand for such programs.
No. 2 is universal pre-kindergarten. Alonso said there are still 2,000 4-year-olds in the city who aren't in school. The state's Thornton law requires school districts to offer pre-kindergarten to all low-income children.
The third priority is transportation. Alonso said he thinks it's "crazy" that the system can't provide school buses for its students and requires them to take the MTA. Right now, the only school buses in the city are for special education students. Elementary students walk and secondary students take public buses. In talking about safety in and out of school, Alonso said, transportation is an important part of the equation. We often hear students say they feel unsafe traveling to and from school, and remember last year's incident involving students from Robert Poole attacking two bus passengers?
So how to fund these (or any) new initiatives in light of the current economic climate? In response to a student's question, Alonso said that more enrollment will mean more state dollars. The system is pushing hard to get more students to turn in their applications for free and reduced-price lunch, which also brings in more money if there's a higher return rate. And, you guessed it, more cuts to the central office are in store.