Baltimore delays cutting Chapter I schools

March 08, 1991|By Frank P. L. Somerville

Baltimore's school board, under pressure from parents and politicians not to reduce the number of elementary schools eligible for federal aid for disadvantaged children, announced last night that a planned redistribution of the money would be postponed at least a year.

The decision means that approximately $45 million from the federal Chapter I program will be apportioned in the next fiscal year according to a formula restricting aid to schools where at least 25 percent of the students are eligible for the free-lunch program.

Now, 112 city schools fit that description.

Put on hold was adoption of state and federal guidelines that would redirect the money to elementary schools with a greateraverage need -- in Baltimore's case, those where at least 57.2 percent of the students qualify for free lunches.

The new formula would have dropped about 40 schools from the list receiving the federal aid but would have increased the money received by remaining schools.

Chapter I pays for extra teachers, counselors, materials and some programs for children who are poor and perform below grade levels.

At a school board hearing Feb. 7, angry parents asked why students should be deprived of the federal aid just because they attended a school where fewer students received free lunches.

A group of parents and Mary Pat Clarke, the City Council president, applauded the postponement.

But board member Meldon S. Hollis Jr. warned that in another year the school system would still be under federal and state pressure to direct the admittedly insufficient funds where they would do the most good.

In other action, the board received a list of 14 schools selected for a school-based management project, an experiment intended to make them more independent of the central bureaucracy. Board members said they expected to adopt the list in two weeks.

Named were 10 elementary schools -- Arundel, Walter P. Carter, Cecil, Robert Coleman, Federal Hill, Garrett Heights, George Street, Harford Heights, Thomas G. Hayes and Pimlico -- and Roland Park Elementary/Middle School, Diggs-Johnson Middle School, Lake Clifton/Eastern High School and Walbrook Senior High School.

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