If a stranger knocks on your door this summer, try to be kind. It might be a Baltimore schoolteacher who’s trying to do something nice for your child and, not to put too fine a point on it, save some teacher’s job.

The door-to-door campaign is called “Baltimore Schools for Baltimore Students: Bringing Back Baltimore One Child at a Time.”
Forty teachers and aides will canvass city neighborhoods six days a week over the next five weeks. They’re trying to convince parents whose children go to private or parochial schools to enroll in the city’s public schools.

Well, good luck with that.

The city schools have been losing students for the last half-century for a variety of reasons, none healthy ones. The exodus started in the post-war years with the mass migration to suburbia, some of it fueled by a growing middle class seeking greener, grassier neighborhoods and some of it fueled by fear of newly-enforced racial integration.

But over the ensuing decades, even those who kept their families in the city often turned their backs on the public schools – despite the breathtaking, ever-rising cost of private schools.

The city’s public schools have long since been considered too risky – too much racial tension, too much violence, too many kids who weren’t learning very much – even when those concerns weren’t precisely based on facts.

The Jews understand this as well as anyone. There might not be a hundred Jews in all of the city’s high schools – combined – and probably not more than a few score beyond City College and the School for the Arts.

But those crusading teachers knocking on doors this summer are aiming for any students they can corral – black or white, Jewish or otherwise.

Federal education funding is based on student population. Fewer students, less money. Less money, less ability to pay teachers. Fewer teachers, less learning. Thus, the endless cycle of failing public schools.

That’s why this is a combined effort by the Baltimore Teachers Union, the American Federation of Teachers, Baltimore public schools, the mayor’s office, First Book and McDonald’s.

So if there’s a knock on your door this summer, and it’s some public schoolteacher fighting for a child – and his or her job – try to be kind.

Top photo: Polytechnic Institute/Western High School Campus (Photo by Solomon Swerling, Jmore)

A former Baltimore Sun columnist and WJZ-TV commentator, Michael Olesker is the author of six books, most recently “Front Stoops in the Fifties: Baltimore Legends Come of Age” (Johns Hopkins University Press).



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