Chapter I schools to receive federal aid windfall

March 08, 1991|By Mark Bomster | Mark Bomster,Evening Sun Staff

Baltimore school officials, citing a $2 million windfall in federal funds, have delayed for a year a plan that would have consolidated programs intended to help poor students who are behind academically.

But the issue could come up again next year, as the school system ponders how to improve its federally funded Chapter I program providing aid to disadvantaged students.

The extra federal funds, plus some other savings, will let the school system help Chapter I schools that need improvement without eliminating programs at schools with fewer poor students, as had been planned.

Word of the extra federal money was welcomed by parents who showed up at the Board of School Commissioners meeting last night to back Chapter I services at their local schools.

"I'm very satisfied with this because it will at least guarantee it for one more year," said Peggy Roth, education outreach chief for the Southeast Community Association.

James C. Dugent, whose child attends Highlandtown Elementary School, called the extra funding "a fantastic victory for every student that's involved in the Chapter I program."

Parents from private and public schools had been pushing the board to abandon a policy that was due to go into effect this September, making it more difficult for schools to qualify for Chapter I services.

Currently, 112 city schools have Chapter I, a $45 million program that pays for extra teachers, materials and other services for needy students performing below grade level.

As of last year, however, 70 of those schools failed to meet federal and state performance standards for the program. Nearly that many are expected to fall short this year as well.

Concerned about the need for improvement, the board last May approved a policy, effective this September, that would consolidate Chapter I programs at schools with the highest proportion of needy students.

But the controversial new formula would have eliminated programs at about 40 public schools with fewer needy students, and at about half of the non-public schools currently eligible for Chapter I.

Technically, the new policy remains in effect, said Meldon S. Hollis Jr., the board member who worked closely with the Chapter I program.

But the Education Department learned recently that it was due to receive $2 million more than had been projected as its share of federal Chapter I funding in fiscal 1992.

The money will let the school system fund improvements without cutting programs, he said.

"This is a commitment that does not extend beyond this year," Hollis warned parents at the meeting.

But, he said, the board may be able to modify the formula by next year in a way that will be less painful for many of the schools.

In other action last night, the board received a list of 14 schools recommended for inclusion in the pilot school restructuring program, which is intended to promote greater school autonomy.

The 14 schools are: Cecil, George Street, Harford Heights, Federal Hill, Thomas G. Hayes, Walter P. Carter, Robert Coleman, Arundel, Garrett Heights and Pimlico elementary schools, Roland Park Elementary/Middle, Diggs-Johnson Middle and Lake Clifton/Eastern and Walbrook high schools.

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