Give all schools as much funding as those EAI runs, Clarke urges

March 04, 1994|By Gary Gately | Gary Gately,Sun Staff Writer

City Council President Mary Pat Clarke demanded last night that every city school receive at least as much money per pupil as those run by Educational Alternatives Inc. -- a move that would radically alter the way the school system allocates its money.

Testifying before the school board, she reaffirmed her long-standing complaint that the 11 schools operated by EAI have an unfair advantage because their per-pupil funding far exceeds that of most other city schools.

"This is an issue of equal protection for all our children and all our schools," said Mrs. Clarke, who is seeking to unseat Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and recently has stepped up her criticism of his administration. "I feel very strongly the need to bring equitable funding to every school in the system."

Clinton R. Coleman, the mayor's spokesman, said, "She's been against Tesseract all along. Now it sounds like she favors the Tesseract program at every school. She can't have it both ways."

EAI, a for-profit company based in Minneapolis, receives $5,918 per pupil for the nine schools it took over last school year. It receives the same amount for two other schools where it handles noninstructional services such as accounting and maintenance.

Most of the city's other 166 schools -- with notable exceptions, such as those with a large number of severely disabled students -- receive far less per pupil.

Spending for the schools run by EAI is based on contract provisions that it receive the "average full-time equivalent" for each student.

That figure is determined by dividing the total school system operating budget, including money for central administration, by the number of students.

Most of the money paid to EAI goes toward teachers' salaries and a 15 percent "administration fee" that immediately reverts to school system headquarters.

Mrs. Clarke wants to apply the same funding formula to non-EAI schools. That would entail dividing the school system's operating budget of more than $600 million by the number of students to arrive at a per-pupil amount. Every school would get that amount multiplied by the number of students in the school.

Each school would then pay teachers' salaries and, like EAI, a 15 percent fee to school headquarters for administrative costs.

After the meeting, Superintendent Walter G. Amprey pointed out that per-pupil funding varies widely among city schools. Giving all schools at least what EAI-run schools receive could require huge spending cuts for central administration functions; elimination of teachers and other positions; and reduction in funding for schools with high per-pupil spending, such as vocational-technical schools and those with mostly disabled or special education students, he said.

"That's just far too draconian and would create too many problems to shift all the money that way," Dr. Amprey said.

He noted that the system intends to give all schools much more say over their budgets next fall as part of the "enterprise school" school-based management program.

Mrs. Clarke said all schools should receive at least as much per pupil as EAI schools do, even if that means cutting the per-pupil spending for the privately run schools.

She pointed to several "randomly chosen" schools that would receive more money if her proposed funding formula were applied.

The 519-student Waverly Elementary School's annual budget would jump from about $1.6 million to $2.6 million under her proposal. She estimated the costs of services provided by headquarters -- such as security and maintenance -- at $343,000. If the school provided those services, as EAI does, its budget would be more than $1.9 million, she said.

EAI received $26.7 million for the nine Tesseract schools during the 1992-1993 school year.

It spent $25 million of that in Baltimore, and $1.7 went to EAI headquarters. The company paid the city $3.4 million for the central administration fee and spent $21.6 million on daily operation of the schools.

Under the funding formula used for those schools in the previous year, the city would have spent $20.6 million for daily operations.

Mrs. Clarke's complaints have been echoed by the Baltimore Teachers Union and the 44,000-member Maryland State Teachers Association.

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