Baltimore Urban Debate League

The Baltimore Urban Debate League (BUDL) uses the art of debate to change lives. BUDL brings learning to life by making it relevant, real, and fun. In competitive debate and in the debate classroom students do more than just memorize and spit back facts, they own and direct their learning, they approach a topic from where they are and by doing so they find their voice, their purpose, and their power. Students in BUDL develop a thirst for knowledge and become inspired to seek and utilize new information.

Organization’s Mission

The Baltimore Urban Debate League is dedicated to improving educational and life outcomes for students in Baltimore’s under resourced public schools. By creating learning opportunities through competitive debate and teacher professional development, we support and inform the educational reform and revitalization efforts underway in our district. Through the motivation and thrill of competitive debate, we improve self-esteem, increase academic achievement, improve graduation rates and access to higher education. With young people of promise, with their schools and communities, we create a new vision, hope, and opportunity.


BUDL was founded in 1999 as part of a national initiative driven by the Open Society Institute to transform public education by bringing the activity of debate back to the urban classroom.

From the League’s modest beginnings in 1999 when 90 pioneering students and 16 teachers in 8 of the City’s most challenged neighborhood high schools began to learn the skills and techniques of competitive policy debate, the League has expanded to involve more than 1,000 middle and high school students and more than 75 BCPSS teachers from 35 high schools and 25 middle schools each year in a rigorous program of after-school debate training, independent research activities, debate team practice sessions, and monthly competitive policy debate tournaments.

Today the Baltimore Urban Debate League is America’s largest and most successful urban debate league, a flagship within an urban debate movement which now includes over 400 public schools from urban debate leagues in 16 of the nation’s largest cities.

BUDL Fact Sheet


BUDL’s 10 Year Anniversary Video

Gov. O’Malley and Dr. Alonso, CEO of BCPSS, talk about the importance of
the Baltimore Urban Debate League.