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BCPS Looks to Increase Enrollment with Taskforce

Dominique Maria Bonessi

At Monday night’s city council meeting President Jack Young introduced  a resolution to hold a hearing with Baltimore City Public Schools on their enrollment task force. City school’s enrollment numbers have been declining faster than the city's population. WYPR’s City Hall Reporter Dominique Maria Bonessi spoke with Morning Edition Host Nathan Sterner.

NATHAN: Why did Young introduce this resolution?

DOMINIQUE: President Young told me yesterday that the task force lacks council and parent representation. Hear is a clip of that.

YOUNG: “Don’t forget we have part of their budget that is part of city government that my council will be hearing on in May. So I think it is important that we are engaged. We represent the very people who send their kids to these schools. We might have control over them but we sure going to have some say.”

DOMINIQUE: And there he is saying that while the state that has the lion’s share of the school system’s funding, the city will be contributing $275 million in the 2019 fiscal year. Young says, ge thinks tax payers and the council should have a say in how city schools determines increase in their enrollment numbers.

NATHAN: How has city schools responded to Young's accusations of lack of diversity?

DOMINIQUE: Yesterday a spokesperson for city schools told me over the phone that the task force does have diversity because one out of 22 members on the panel is a parent who is also Hispanic. The spokesperson also said that they hope to work with city council moving forward.

NATHAN: We already saw an initiative last year from the Baltimore City Teachers Union to increase enrollment numbers it was a door knocking campaign. Remind us how that went?

DOMINIQUE: After speaking with a spokesperson from BTU yesterday the union said that last summer after speaking with 6000 parents, they had 3293 new enrollments—that includes Pre-K, new students to the district, and transfers from within the district. And they got 17 high school drop outs re-enrolled in city schools. The union says that put about $200,000 back in the schools. I will remind you that there were a few issues with the door knocking campaign last year like lots of vacant homes being knocked on, a declining population in the city, and many residents sending their kids to Baltimore County schools. But all in all, BTU says they plan on having another door knocking campaign this summer.

NATHAN: So CEO of Schools Sonja Santelises’s enrollment task force would be a way to double down on the union’s door knocking efforts?

DOMINIQUE: Yes, Santelises told parents and administrators in a board meeting earlier last month that, “We knew from the beginning"--she refers to the need to increase enrollment--"that what is going to be required is a large-scale effort. So again, I ask for this"--the task force--"as one step among many.”

The task force would assemble to make recommendations to the school board about what initiatives they can take to combat decline in enrollment and then the school board would decide what action to take.

NATHAN: So where do the city council and city schools go from here?

DOMINIQUE: Well later this month we can expect to see a meeting between the city council and Santelises to discuss the enrollment task force. Also, there will be the budget oversight hearing to see how city school’s is spending Baltimore City tax payer dollars on May 17th.

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