Frustrated at the dearth of money for Baltimore City public schools, four state legislators have introduced a bill that would turn over the administration of the troubled city school system to the state.
The state should take over city schools because the revenue-strapped city does not have enough money to educate its children properly, said Del. Paul Weisengoff, D-City, the bill's chief sponsor. "We can't do the job so let the state do it. Children are getting an inadequate education."
Weisengoff said he had not "gotten into the details" of how his controversial plan would work. The bill, introduced in the House of Delegates Monday, is co-sponsored by three other city delegates.
Judy Sachwald, the governor's executive assistant for education, said the bill is worth studying, although the recession would make it "problematic" for the state to pick up the entire cost of the city school system.
She interpreted the bill, however, as requiring the city to continue to pay some educational costs. Weisengoff said he would consider a plan to have the city continue to kick in as much money for education as it does now.
Sachwald said the bill is "ironic,"given the "cold shoulder" the state received from Baltimore several years ago when the state proposed a study of the city school system and a joint city-state effort to address school problems. At the time, the city considered that plan to be "intrusive," she said.
Weisengoff said a state takeover would not be necessary if the state would agree to send more money for education to Baltimore, which is facing serious budget problems. "If the state took over the cost of education, the city would be solvent."
Larry Chamblin, a spokesman for the state Education Department, had no comment on the proposal yesterday.
The city school system has no position on the bill, said Douglas J. Neilson, a school system spokesman. "I don't think [Weisengoff] expects the bill to pass. He's trying to draw attention to the need for more funding," Neilson said.
Richer counties, for instance, spend at least $1,000 more per student than Baltimore, Neilson said.
Weisengoff said he hopes the bill would give the city a forum to discuss its educational problems. "It's not a ploy. We're in deep trouble and the state doesn't understand it or, if they do understand it, they're not responding to it," said Weisengoff, a former teacher who now works as a troubleshooter on school construction matters.
Many state legislators oppose a bill proposed by Schaefer that would raise $800 million in new state taxes and would provide more money for education, transportation and poorer areas, such as Baltimore.
The city cannot levy any more taxes on its residents to pay for education because they already face a heavier tax burden then many of their suburban neighbors, Weisengoff said.
Sachwald said officials should keep an open mind about the bill, but she expressed concerned about the wisdom of moving educational decision-making farther away from the local community.