Concerned parents, students and Baltimore City Council members gathered at Frederick Douglass High School on Feb. 2 for a bake sale to raise funds for students affected by changes the Maryland Transit Administration and Baltimore City Public Schools made to the bus schedule that cut the evening hours students can ride for free by two hours.
The problematic decision has caused numerous issues for students and parents alike across the city. Many students are now being force to choose between their after-school programs and a safe trip home on the bus. Meanwhile, parents are put in the compromising predicament of finding a way to get their children home when buses are inaccessible to students or hindering their child’s academic and extracurricular activities.
City officials are looking for the MTA to pay back the $200,000 the school system paid to cover the rides.
“Years ago, we negotiated with the MTA and the school system to extend the [student pass] hours to 8 p.m. — we won that battle. We have built programs around the fact that our kids have extended bus passes during the week, and they can get home after they stay. Now all of a sudden, it got taken away,” said Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke (D-District 14). “We just want what we already won for our children. The whole issue of public transportation is tied right into opportunity, whether it is for jobs or your choice of education. If you’re for education, you must be for accessible transportation.”
The bake sale took about three months of planning. According to Councilman Zeke Cohen’s office, 38 bakers from across the city volunteered their services to raise money and awareness for the issue. The current goal is to raise $97,200 by the end of February, and the bake sale, which was broadcast live via Facebook, served to direct people to the GoFundMe page for the campaign, which can be visited at bit.ly/2lfQc3X.
City residents are also upset after a recent article in the Baltimore Sun reported that Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco was paid $45,000 to pose for a promotional picture to be displayed on the sides of five MTA buses.
“This is almost half of what we need now to get our kids on the bus,” said Shantay Guy, a parent from the 8th District who spoke at the event. “Why is it OK to drop that money to pay a millionaire, or anyone for that matter, $45,000 to pose on MTA buses that won’t let our kids stay on until 8?”
“Even before we took away the 6 to 8 p.m. ridership, school transportation was encumbering,” said Councilman Ryan Dorsey (D-District 3). “Students were already having a hard time. Based on school choice, students have to travel far distances just to get to a decent school. We have been divesting from community schools and the whole model of schools as the center of community for decades in Baltimore city, contributing to the hyper-segregation of our schools. An opportunity only exists if you can get to it. We can’t talk about providing opportunities to better pathways to the future if we are standing in the way of students being able to get to those opportunities.”