Our public schools have a long and proud tradition of greatness, but the standard we’ve come to expect isn’t being maintained in all our schools today. Prior to the pandemic MCPS had a racial equity problem – now after semesters without in-person learning the problem for black and brown students is likely a crisis. We need to incentivize MCPS to place its best principals and teachers in our highest need schools to truly addressing this issue. I believe it can be done.
While increasing course offerings for low-income students is a step forward, it isn’t enough. Without appropriate educational supports, these programs will still be out of reach for many of our neediest students, not because they lack the potential, but because they need the attention and confidence from an education system that believes in them and their success. We know virtual learning has already caused achievement gaps to widen for our students, especially those with special education needs. We should be devising robust remediation efforts to help those now struggling transition successfully back to in-person learning when schools reopen. We can’t allow any student to fail. The increased prevalence of technology in our educational system also presents new opportunities to expand services for students, but only if we embrace them in areas where they can be successful.
In 2018, I campaigned on putting telehealth in our schools to provide physical and mental health services to students. While the cost of these services has increased, there will be a greater need to expand telehealth when students return, especially for mental health services. We’ve got to find ways to make it possible. Improving student achievement starts with healthy lifelong development in the early years of a child’s life.
As County Executive, I’ll work with community partners to expand early screening to detect mental health issues and childhood trauma and then connect families with the support they need. If we can address these problems earlier, student outcomes will improve. We also need to ensure that every MCPS graduate is career and college ready. This requires us to set higher expectations and provide more alternatives to those not college bound. A student’s learning environment matters. We need to prioritize school renovation and construction to ensure each student is in a building and classroom that’s safe and conducive to learning. It begins with treating every project like it’s our only one. As County Executive, I’ll examine responsible ways to leverage our Triple-A bond rating to improve schools and expand their capacity, while also ensuring capital funding is equitably distributed across MCPS.