Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh is receiving criticism over her decision to dedicate as much as $100,000 of taxpayer money to provide 60 school buses, free t-shirts, and boxed lunches for around 3,000 students looking to attend a gun control rally in Washington, D.C., later this month.
Earlier this week, Baltimore students walked out of classes and marched to City Hall demanding new gun control laws. While the mayor's office did not receive advanced warning that the students would be marching on City Hall, she greeted them at the steps with a megaphone.
"America needs to hear the voices of the young people of Baltimore," Pugh told the students before announcing the city's plan to fund the trip to the "March for Our Lives" rally in Washington, D.C., on March 24.
Mayor Pugh is finding herself in hot water, however, because many of Baltimore's schools are themselves without hot water. The heating systems in Baltimore's public schools are so outdated that students, faculty, and staff were actually forced to bundle up indoors earlier this year during an exceptional cold front. In January, a third of Baltimore's public schools either had broken or underperforming heating systems that made the schools' indoor temperatures unbearably cold. Schools actually had to close because the indoor temperatures reached unsafe levels.
At the time, the mayor's office explained that the schools' heating systems were beyond fixing because the city simply didn't have the money to make the repairs and upgrades. Initial estimates from the American Civil Liberties Union (it's never good when HVAC systems in schools get the attention of the ACLU) estimated that it would cost at least $2.8 billion to modernize the heating and air conditioning in Baltimore City Public Schools.
One concerned citizen actually set up a GoFundMe page to fix the problem, titling it simply, "We need heat in our public schools." The crowdfunding effort raised just over $84,000 to provide space heaters to Baltimore public schools.
Mayor Pugh's decision to spend $100,000 on political activism is leaving many parents shaking their heads and wondering where this discretionary spending was when students were left in Arctic temperatures inside their classrooms.
Forced to explain her decision, Pugh told reporters Wednesday that her office would try to solicit as many private donations as possible to finance the trip. Though with the trip already promised, she left the door open for taxpayer money being used. "We’ll cross that bridge if we get to it," Pugh said.
That evening, Pugh appeared on Fox News' The Ingraham Angle to discuss the decision to help students attend the rally in the nation's capital.
"You just hired 20 new people including a new marketing director in your office," Laura Ingraham said to the mayor. "Teachers are being fired, personnel fired, and you’re shuttling people down to a rally. That doesn’t seem to make sense.”
The back-and-forth even left The Baltimore Sun asking why Pugh would agree to appear on the program. "What the h*** is Pugh going on Ingraham’s show for?" asked Sun reporter David Zurawik in his column.
What do you think? Should the mayor be promising $100,000 in transportation to the rally when the schools so desperately need HVAC modernizations? We want to hear your thoughts in the comments below!