Give credit to the Montgomery Advertiser for being honest about the REAL challenge facing the Montgomery County school system.  As they point out in this article, Poverty and proficiency: MPS’ biggest obstacle may be outside the school system, the issue goes far beyond the classroom and the school board.

Listen to one teacher.

“During the Sidney Lanier High School football team’s summer workouts, linebackers coach Stephen Landrum knew which of his players either just came from work or were going there next.

“I have a lot of kids that have to support their family,” Landrum said. “They’re working jobs to help pay for things and taking care of brothers and sisters. … If you have a schedule like that, there is no time for them to do any work outside of school and when they get to school they’re tired.” 

It’s worse during the school year, he said, when shifts can only be picked up after school and a rough next day in class is all but guaranteed.

Landrum has at least 10 such football players out of 60 who he sees carry their economic burdens onto the field along with their pads and helmets.

It’s the same story in his world history classroom, he said, where some students “come to school only to eat” and others can’t find motivation while wondering if they will be able to shower when they get home.

“There are kids that don’t know if their power is going to be on when they get home from school or if their water is going to be turned off. That’s a real issue,” Landrum said. “There’s 15 or 20 times a year that I find out one of my kids, the basic necessities at home, they don’t have them. That’s just the ones that tell me. There’s a lot more that don’t.”

High student poverty in school districts directly correlates to low average academic proficiency, according to a 2014 study by the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama (PARCA), and at a time when many are looking at ways to improve a Montgomery Public Schools system under state intervention, some within the system believe poverty isn’t being talked about enough.

“I think it’s probably the No. 1 issue,” Landrum said.” 

(Editor’s note: Because of his passion for young people, Stephen Landrum left his law practice to become a teacher of inner-city students.  Yet the PR campaign being waged by a group trying to hand pick the school board wants us to think he is a complete failure )

“Of the 37 schools where a majority of students qualified for free/reduced lunch last year, only six were graded above a D on this year’s state report cards, which measured academic achievement, academic growth, college and career readiness and chronic absenteeism. None of the 37 got higher than a C.

All schools that received an A or B had a free/reduced rate of 28 percent or lower.

Montgomery’s magnet high schools — LAMP (100 percent graduation rate, 100 percent CCR), Brewbaker Tech (99 percent graduation rate, 98 percent CCR), and Booker T. Washington (100 percent graduation rate, 95 percent CCR) — were in the top 15 schools statewide in graduation rate and college/career readiness percentage, according to another PARCA report, and the three combined for an average ACT score of 24.6.

The average free/reduced rate in those schools is 11.85 percent.”

Montgomery has watched this situation unfold for years and years–but local “leaders” have never acknowledged it or stepped up to do something meaningful themselves.

Don Bogie detailed the city’s predicament well 20 years ago.  But the community slept right through his sermon.

So now we have a full blown attack on the school system by a group the mayor calls “the young progressives.”  They have spent nearly $100,000 to trash our schools and certain candidates running for the board.  But I have yet to see one piece of literature they send to our mail boxes addressing the kind of things the Advertiser points out.  Instead, they have the ill-informed notion that seven members of a school board can magically undo generations of poverty and all that goes with it.

Most of us normally think that we get what we pay for.  But in this case, nothing will be farther from the truth.  Anyone thinking you can spend $100,000 and make water run uphill is living in a fantasy world.