Council studies 2 education measures

April 06, 1994|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,Sun Staff Writer

Baltimore parents would have the chance to pick a public school for their children and be guaranteed small elementary classes under two far-reaching measures introduced in the City Council last night.

Councilman Carl Stokes, a 2nd District Democrat, revived a decade-old charter amendment proposal to limit the number of pupils in kindergarten through fifth-grade classes to 25. A companion proposal would amend the charter to permit parents to send their children to the public school of their choice instead of the closest one in the neighborhood.

"It's one of the two most pressing concerns of parents. The two things parents talk to me about is the size of the class and the safety in the public schools," Mr. Stokes said.

Council President Mary Pat Clarke said she's optimistic the measures stand a better chance than an attempt 12 years ago when she, Councilman Edwin Johnson and then-Councilman Kweisi Mfume spearheaded a similar drive that failed.

"I think we all want to put our money where our children are," Mrs. Clarke said.

But Councilwoman Vera P. Hall, a 5th District Democrat, made clear that the proposals face a tough challenge before they could be presented to voters in November.

Mrs. Hall, the council vice president, sharply criticized the measures as strictly political.

"First of all, class size is one of the lowest indicators of successful teaching," said the former schoolteacher. "I was a very successful teacher for 15 years, and I never had less than 35 children. This is just an easy way out. It's a politician's way of saying I did something for education."

Both Mrs. Hall and Mr. Stokes announced last fall they plan to run for council president next year. Mrs. Clarke intends to challenge Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke.

Allowing parents to select the school of their choice could shortchange schools without the same resources as those in affluent neighborhoods, Mrs. Hall pointed out.

Mr. Stokes said he did not believe there would be a rush to enroll at a few schools, creating a logistical quagmire. He said most parents would continue to send their children to the closest neighborhood school. But the choice of another school would be available to parents seeking something different -- more structured classes or a different special education approach.

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