Monday, May 05, 2014

Baltimore's Ingenuity Project: who should pay?

Back in 2008, I wrote about Baltimore's Ingenuity Project for USA Today. A number of specialized high schools, or famous suburban ones, have research programs that link students with scientist mentors and lab space. These students then produce amazing research projects that win them awards, get them into great colleges, etc. The cool thing about Ingenuity is that it is part of the Baltimore City Schools, and so taps scientific talent that too many urban public schools fail to nurture.

Of course, special programs that target the most academically capable students cost money and are easy to cut. Baltimore's schools have myriad other problems and funding isn't infinite. So according to this recent article from the Baltimore Sun, the Ingenuity program (and the IB program) are facing district cuts.

To be sure, it's not that the district doesn't want these programs. It does. But the idea is that they should be school supported or self-sustaining through fundraising.

It's hard to know what to think of this idea. The district isn't wrong that something like Ingenuity might be attractive to donors. The Sun article starts with the tale of a young man who's got a Gates Millennium scholarship that will pay his way to Harvard and through getting a doctorate. The cost of that would likely cover a big chunk of the Ingenuity cost, and that's just one person! Baltimore may be thinking hey, we are shouldering the cost of creating extremely competitive college applicants that other people are excited about. It would be nice to see some of that cost spread.

But the whole point of public education is shouldering the cost of creating extremely competitive college applicants (or career-ready citizens). Other parts of education don't necessarily have to pay their own way, and it's frustrating that programs targeting bright, ambitious, hard-working students need to think about that.

What do you think?

1 comment:

nicoleandmaggie said...

State universities have been drastically cutting their education spending and relying more on donors as well. They shouldn't, at least not in the big states (there's some argument that there's no point in, for example, the little New England states having excellent tax-payer subsidized universities because their graduates will all move out of state to work in Boston).
If these programs are producing positive spillover effects (collectively greater than their cost) to the entities funding them, then they should continue to fund them from an economic perspective. From a moral perspective, we ought to have higher taxes so we can fund all the education.