Liberals block the most promising path in Baltimore

Many liberals and some conservatives would like to force a major reduction in the prison population, even though current incarceration rates contributed significantly to sharply reduced crime rates. One objection to the crusade to reduce incarceration is high recidivism. Nearly 70 percent of released prisoners are arrested within three years.

To deal with this objection, proponents of reform call for rehabilitation and training programs for prisoners. They sometimes talk as if no one has ever thought of, or tried, this approach.

Unfortunately, pouring money into rehabilitation and training is unlikely to reduce recidivism appreciably. Character typically is just about fully formed by the time one is old enough to be a prisoner. Moreover, the government generally isn’t good at providing job training, even to the law abiding.

Instead of pinning our hopes on rehabilitating criminals, why not focus on properly educating children? Their habits and character are only just starting to take shape. No real transformation is required of them.

Yet the same liberals who are so committed to rehabilitating criminals stand in the way of providing quality education to children. This is evident in Baltimore, where only 14 percent of fourth-graders and 16 percent of eighth-graders were proficient in reading according to the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress.

It’s not that liberal won’t pour money into Baltimore’s schools. According to the Washington Post, Baltimore ranks near the top in per-pupil spending for big cities.

The problem is liberal Maryland’s hostility to charter schools. As the Post puts it, “Maryland is so hostile to charter schools that many children in Baltimore find themselves stuck with no options.” As a result, “poor parents lack the kind of options that wealthier families take for granted” and the public school system lacks competitive pressure to improve.

Maryland discourages charter schools through onerous regulations. According to the Post, “some national charter school organizations with proven track records in education low-income children are dissuaded from locating in Maryland because of the lack of autonomy they would have in choosing curriculum and hiring personnel, as well as meager financial support.”

The problem isn’t confined to Baltimore. Recently, I heard a mother complain at length about the government-imposed obstacles her son’s charter school in Frederick, Maryland faces.

But Baltimore is in the news now, and the unrest there can serve as a wake-up call. If Maryland liberals are really concerned about the inner-city, rather than pandering to Democratic constituencies, they will heed that call and work with the Republican governor on easing government-imposed burdens on charter schools.

Unfortunately, they have instead blocked the governor’s reform package and passed a bill with even more onerous regulations. This says it all.