Tiffany France thought her son was going to graduate from high school this June. After all, he had been promoted despite trouble passing his classes. Little did she know just how much trouble her son was having. It turned out that he had only passed three classes, and his 0.13-grade point average had him ranked 62nd out of 120 in his high school class at the Augusta Fells Savage Institute of Visual Arts, according to FoxBaltimore.com. Officials bumped him back to ninth grade at 17 years old, to Ms. France’s utter shock.
“I told him I’m probably going to start crying. I don’t know what to do for him,” she told the Sinclair-owned station’s Project Baltimore. “Why would he do three more years in school? He didn’t fail; the school failed him. The school failed at their job. They failed. They failed; that’s the problem here. They failed. They failed. He didn’t deserve that.”
WBFF 45 noted that this failure of a school is getting $5.3 million a year for a student body of 434 (in 2019). That comes to $12,211.98 (rounding down) per student. Of the 434 students, incidentally, two tested as being proficient in math, and two more were proficient in English. When a school is getting a $5.3 million budget, then attendance should be much higher than the 61 percent FoxBaltimore.com reported, and graduation rates should be higher than 48 percent. More importantly, there is no excuse for the appalling lack of students proficient in math and English. Aside from a serious illness or injury, there is no reason a student should be missing over 250 days of school over three years.
On a moral level, this is unacceptable. It is an axiom that education is necessary to function in society and be productive, whether one finds work right out of high school or whether they go to college. But working and contributing to the economy instead of being hooked on welfare programs or breaking laws and ending up in prison is not all that is part of being a productive and responsible citizen. One of our most important rights – and greatest responsibilities is to vote. And if one is not proficient in English and math, how can they be expected to understand the issues in a given election, much less follow the instructions on making sure their vote is legally cast?
Let’s get one thing out of the way: This is NOT about reinstating the literacy tests used to disenfranchise black people in the South. On the contrary, this is about making sure that American citizens – regardless of their race – are able to fulfill an important right and responsibility of being a citizen. So, how do they end up casting their vote if they do so?
Enter vote harvesters, one of the things that the so-called “For The People Act” makes legal nationwide. They’d “help” Ms. France’s son fill out the ballot, then take it to be cast. And in some states, this sort of manipulation and exploitation is completely legal.
This is a massive problem. The Augusta Fells Savage Institute of Visual Arts is not the only failing school in Baltimore, whose last Republican mayor left office in 1967. Worse, Baltimore is not the only major city in this country with failing schools. In fact, you can bet these failing schools are in cities across the country – including Atlanta, Detroit, Milwaukee, and Philadelphia. Or, to put it bluntly, the four major metropolitan areas that swung the 2020 election.
Election integrity measures can address this over the short term, but they face court challenges (many of the difficulties faced in challenging the 2020 election came from consent decrees and legal efforts long before November 3) and it may not be easy to get them in some states. Therefore, the only reliable answer over the long haul is to ensure that those seeking to harvest ballots are not able to find people who they can exploit.
That means ensuring that when people graduate from high school, they are not just proficient in English and math, it means making sure that they have access to basic life skills. They should know how to do things like balancing a checkbook, read a pay stub, being able to show up on time for work, budget for expenses, how the state’s voting system works, how to file a tax return, how to engage in critical thinking, and even how to cook. If the schools are failing, addressing that failure is something that can be accomplished with local grassroots activism and action.
Start by petitioning your local school boards and your state legislators to add “life skills” classes to the curriculum in middle school and high school. This is going to be crucial because even in school districts that aren’t seen as failing, some real trouble is percolating. The Federalist noted that in Naperville, Illinois, schools are arguably focusing on left-wing indoctrination as opposed to what American children need to learn.
But even as you wait for local and state politicians to act, work to teach those skills yourself. Maybe you can help put together a church group to put together classes in the basic skills and offer tutoring in your neighborhood. Then, they can expand to other neighborhoods as well. This is a true “hand up” out of poverty, and the people who are helped will remember those who helped them, as will those in the neighborhood. This could hasten the trend of conservative (and some moderate) black voters leaving the Democratic Party that has David Shor so worried.
But the political gains are just a bonus: The fight for quality education is primarily a moral one. Every child deserves to graduate from high school with the life skills and knowledge needed to start the journey to becoming a successful and productive member of society. This is particularly true of those facing additional challenges brought on by decades of failed welfare policies. Every day these schools fail is a day that brings America closer to a bad situation. It’s time to fix those failing schools.