Rawlings again proposes money squeeze on schools

March 15, 1995|By Jean Thompson | Jean Thompson,Sun Staff Writer

For the second time in three years, Del. Howard P. Rawlings has proposed withholding millions in state aid from Baltimore to push school officials toward management reforms.

Today, the House of Delegates is scheduled to review the state's new budget -- including a proposal by Mr. Rawlings, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, to withhold about $5.9 million earmarked for school administrative salaries and benefits.

To obtain the money, the Baltimore Democrat proposed, city school officials must implement more of the reforms recommended in June 1992 by management consultant firm Towers Perrin/Cresap, which was hired by Associated Black Charities, the Abell Foundation and other groups.

He called for Baltimore schools to create a system for evaluating all school workers, and for the state Department of Education to monitor the district's progress toward the management study's goals.

"I think it's reasonable to expect that the schools are managed well and that the taxpayers' money is well spent," Mr. Rawlings said. He noted that a study released in January found that Baltimore had adopted some, but not all, of the Cresap recommendations.

The Cresap report is seen in Baltimore as one of the catalysts for the shift to school-based management, which was expanded districtwide last fall after a trial run. That report outlined restructuring steps that some lawmakers see as a blueprint for better schools.

Superintendent Walter G. Amprey called Mr. Rawlings' proposal an unfair effort to impose control and to push recommendations of a highly critical report that doesn't reflect the current situation in schools.

He said the three-year plan for phasing in school-based controls on spending is succeeding. Recent gains in attendance and achievement, although slight, are signs of progress, the superintendent said.

Some Cresap recommendations are out of date, he said. "Were we supposed to accept them as gospel or as a consultant's recommendation, some of which you adopt, some of which you reject, some of which you do later?" he said.

In 1993, Mr. Rawlings' committee recommended withholding $4.8 million until the school system adopted recommendations from the Cresap report. Ultimately, no state aid was withheld and Maryland commissioned the second management study.

"Reasonable people can disagree about whether the school system is implementing the recommendations fast enough or well enough," said school board President Phillip H. Farfel. He added, however, that "withholding funds hurts my children, even if we are talking about administrative costs."

Mr. Rawlings bristled at that suggestion, saying his proposal wouldn't harm students. "It's targeted to the people who are responsible for the management of the schools," he said. "It's an incentive to achieve management goals that they said they would achieve over two years ago."

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