Baltimore school principals are backing Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's plan to close schools for a week and give all school workers an unpaid, five-day furlough.
The move puts the Public School Administrators and Supervisors Association at odds with the teachers' union, which has come out against the money-saving plan.
The proposed furlough is part of Schmoke's response to a $27.1 million cut in state aid, including an $8.8 million cut in education aid.
The school shutdown would save an estimated $7.5 million. It also could put the city on a collision course with a state-mandated, 180-day school year -- a requirement the State Board of Education says it will not waive.
But PSASA, which represents principals, assistant principals and central office personnel, is backing the furlough over other money-saving options. Among them are cuts in curriculum, pre-kindergarten programs and textbooks.
"We were very strongly opposed to a number of options and, of course, most strongly opposed to layoffs," said Sheila Z. Kolman, president of PSASA. "A furlough for a week would, essentially, spread the sacrifice."
Kolman said her group supports the need for a dramatic gesture to highlight the financial crisis facing Baltimore schools.
"We have to let the legislature know that we cannot continue at this funding level," she said.
In a statement released this week, the principals' group calls the furlough "a drastic measure," but says it would be "less damaging, from an educational standpoint, than the loss of needed programs, services and employees."
The Baltimore Teachers Union, meanwhile, has come out forcefully against the furlough and is engaging in a "work-to-rule" job slowdown to protest the plan.