Clarke wants more funds for schools

March 23, 1995|By Harold Jackson | Harold Jackson,Sun Staff Writer

Taking her campaign for mayor another step, City Council President Mary Pat Clarke unveiled her education platform yesterday, saying she wants to put more money into each school rather than spending it on administration.

Mrs. Clarke said 97 percent of Baltimore's $646.6 million education budget should go directly to the schools. She said it's difficult to determine how much money each school controls now, but that it appears to be a "minimal" amount.

"We've got to make the money follow the child," she said at a news conference on the front steps of the city Board of Education headquarters on North Avenue.

Although she criticized the spending priorities of school superintendent Dr. Walter G. Amprey, Mrs. Clarke did not call for his firing. If more money goes directly to schools, the bureaucracy at North Avenue won't matter as much, she said.

"I'm interested in where the children are, in terms of their success in education, and that's my focus. Let the adults sort themselves out," she said.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, who is seeking a third term, declined to comment on her proposals.

Making schools safe is a priority, Mrs. Clarke added. She proposed a "one strike and you're out" policy to take disruptive children out of classrooms and place them in alternative school programs.

"Our teachers fear for their lives and for their safety, but, most of all, for the respect that is due them," she said. "I'm very serious about this issue because I think nothing else can happen until we take it seriously."

She criticized the experiment that has given for-profit Education Alternatives Inc. control over nine city schools, calling the program a "distraction." But she said the contract with EAI was "appropriately" winding itself down.

Mrs. Clarke said Baltimore is not receiving its fair share of state education funds. "I think the state has a major obligation to us in that regard."

She also called for school administrators to write budgets that can be understood by any citizen, whether parent or superintendent.

"We now have a budget that was presented to the school board the other night in which we have no accounting whatsoever for how the money will be spent in the individual schools. That is a step backward and flies in the face of everything we have worked to achieve," she said.

Individual schools, she said, can experiment with other academic methods once they receive a greater share of education funds. But each school must be accountable, she added.

She said she wanted to make the school board the "3 percent headquarters" of the school system. The rest of the system's money would be under the direct control of the individual schools and their principals.

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