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Students stage three-day walkout in Baltimore

By Josh Brand | March 10, 2006 | Page 11

BALTIMORE--Hundreds of students from across the city took part in a three-day student strike March 1-3, which saw protests outside the State Department of Education, the City School Board and City Hall. On the third day, a meeting between a student contingent and Mayor Martin O'Malley took place.

The Baltimore Algebra Project, a student-run group founded by veteran civil rights activist Bob Moses, called the strike. The project was created to provide student-to-student math tutoring.

But the state and the city have both pushed the students to their limit--through massive underfunding, ignoring a year-old court order for the state to pay more than $400 million to city schools. Meanwhile, the city school board plans to close 2.7 million square feet of its total operating space.

The main demands were formulated by the students under the title "ABC": restoring funding to arts and physical education programs, the complete renovation of all school buildings, and the reduction of class sizes to a maximum of 20.

"We came up with 'ABC' before December," said student organizer Chris Goodman. "When we found out in December [about the school closings], we decided to push the plan, and a strike seemed the best way to do that."

The Algebra Project then approached its fellow groups in the Baltimore Coalition of Education Advocates, who assisted in publicity and in setting up the meeting with O'Malley.

During the hour-long summit with Mayor O'Malley, students presented a list of demands while students and adult supporters waited outside. Later, we learned that while O'Malley had agreed to most of the general demands, he refused to agree to the essential points of "ABC" and refused to seek the court-ordered funding.

Strengthening ties between student and teacher organizing is a crucial next step for winning Project Algebra's "ABC" demands.

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