9.5% rise in school funding asked $551.2 million budget is being sought

January 18, 1991|By Mark Bomster

The Baltimore school administration has proposed a $551.2 million budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 that would boost spending by 9.5 percent but add little in the way of new programs.

Of the proposed $47.9 million increase in spending, $35.6 million would go for general support to education, such as employee salaries and benefits, with lesser increases in specific state- and federally funded programs.

And while the proposed budget projects no layoffs, it shaves $1 million by abolishing 34 vacant central administration jobs, and trims another $1 million through a hiring freeze on non-instructional workers.

The proposal still must be adopted by the school board, which received it last night, and ultimately by the City Council later this year.

In his budget message, Superintendent Richard C. Hunter cited the "inflationary pressures and revenue shortfalls" facing the city and its school system.

But he said that the budget for school year 1991-1992, "while not providing many of the improvements which are needed and justified, will substantially improve student achievement at a cost which is reasonable."

The budget would be the last prepared by Hunter, whose term expires in July. The school board told Hunter last month that his contract would not be renewed, capping months of Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's dissatisfaction with the superintendent.

Hunter's proposed budget calls on the city to provide $197.2 million in aid to education, up from $181.1 million in local money last year.

The increased local contribution fits within the budget parameters set by the Schmoke administration, according to an Education Department budget official.

The state's contribution would be $272.8 million, an increase of $20.7 million. Most of that increase would come through the state's APEX aid to education formula.

The spending plan also projects increases in restricted federal funds, mainly in the area of Chapter 1 programs, which aid schools with heavy concentrations of disadvantaged students.

Among the initiatives and enhancements proposed for the school system's 108,000 students are:

* $600,000 to fund the new pilot school restructuring program, which is intended to give individual schools greater flexibility in structuring their educational programs. The restructuring project is to get under way with 20 pilot schools.

* $800,000 for a new grant program to help the system's neediest schools improve their instructional programs.

* $2.1 million to pick up the cost of the computer-based Writing-to-Read program, a pilot program that is being used by kindergarten and first-grade students in 38 schools.

* $2.09 million to help schools meet state standards under the fTC Maryland School Performance Program. That money would help fund changes in curriculum and new tests based on performance.

School officials included a separate "wish list" of $138.3 million in programs that they would like to fund should the revenue become available through a revision of the state's tax code or other sources.

They include $24.1 million for early childhood education, $21.5 million for computer labs and $18.3 million to help cut class sizes.

Meanwhile, supporters of the lame-duck school superintendent turned out at last night's board meeting to praise Hunter and urge that he be retained as school chief.

The board will hold a special hearing next Thursday to take comments on the process it has established to select Hunter's successor.

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