BALTIMORE (WBFF)-- A Baltimore city mom is furious after she waited five hours to testify before her state Senate leaders, but ended up speaking to empty chairs.
“It’s infuriating,” said Julie Gaskins following her testimony before the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee. “It’s just indicative of the larger problem within Baltimore City Public Schools.”
Gaskins waited a long time for this opportunity. She took the day off work, drove to Annapolis and sat all afternoon waiting her turn to explain why she believes Baltimore City Public Schools failed her son. But when Gaskins spoke, two Baltimore City senators were not there to listen.
Gaskins’ son goes to Garret Heights Elementary Middle. A recent letter from the State Department of Education confirmed that her son who is in 7th grade, had the curriculum of a first grader. The State declared Garrett Heights in violation of state and federal law.
Gaskins was in Annapolis to testify in support of Governor Larry Hogan’s proposed Senate Bill 302, The Accountability in Education Act.
“We simply cannot allow children to be punished year after year because their adult leaders are failing,” stated the Governor in early January when he announced the legislation.
Senate Bill 302 establishes a new position in Annapolis - an investigator general devoted to public schools.
“We must have accountability,” Gaskins testified. “The time is now. We cannot afford to just look away and act like there is nothing wrong within our school system.”
The Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee has 11 members. Two senators, Joan Carter Conway and Barbara Robinson, represent only Baltimore City.
During the hearing, Project Baltimore sat behind Sen. Robinson, who appeared to be multi-tasking and checking her email. Then, as Gaskins testified, Sen. Robison got up and left the room. A few minutes later, she returned with food and drink.
“Yeah, I had to go take care of something and I came back,” explained Sen. Robison when Fox45 asked why she left during her constituent’s testimony.
As for Senator Conway, who chairs the committee, Garrett Heights Elementary Middle is in her District. But for the entire time Gaskins spoke, Conway’s chair was empty.
“You might have thought I wasn’t there, but I was in this building, okay. And the speakers are on,” said Sen. Conway.
When Project Baltimore asked her specifically about Julie Gaskins, the only woman from Baltimore City to testify about Baltimore City Public Schools, Conway told us, “I might not have been listening at Julie Gaskins’ testimony.”
Conway explained she was conducting committee business, but wouldn’t specifically explain what that business was.
“It consists of a number of things, and it’s probably too detailed and too long to explain it to you,” she said.
“We have people in leadership positions that don’t care to listen to the issues,” Gaskins told Project Baltimore. “If you care about it, you would be there. This is a serious issue in Baltimore City Public Schools.”
Senate Bill 302 has not yet received a committee vote date.