Schools act to prevent cutoff of millions in aid

April 05, 1995|By Jean Thompson | Jean Thompson,Sun Staff Writer

Also, an article in April 5 editions of The Sun incorrectly stated the committee chairmanship of state Del. Howard P. Rawlings. He is chairman of the Appropriations Committee of the House of Delegates. The chairwoman of the Ways and Means Committee is Del. Sheila E. Hixson.

The Sun regrets the error.

Faced with the cutoff of $5.8 million in state aid, a Baltimore school official yesterday pledged to work on the management reforms required to restore the funding.

"I'm pretty confident that we can resolve this," said Philip H. Farfel, Baltimore's school board president.

Mr. Farfel said the school system's budget for next year will be prepared as though the funds would be forthcoming, and said the loss of the funds would be painful to the district.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

According to the most recent state figures, Baltimore spends more per pupil than half of districts statewide. The proposed budget for next year is about $645 million.

The sanction was imposed this week by the state legislature at the urging of Del. Howard P. Rawlings, a Baltimore Democrat and chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. State legislators cut off the money because they believe the management of Baltimore's schools is ineffective.

To persuade the state to restore the funds, the school system must make "significant progress" developing a personnel evaluation system, addressing the problem of a high student transfer rate and implementing several other management reforms. It must also submit to monitoring by the state and to an independent evaluation of its progress.

The funds will not be withheld up front, so it should not cause the budget crisis predicted by city officials, Delegate Rawlings said. He said the potential benefits of holding the school system accountable for the way it uses money were worth the political risk involved.

"There are some officials who think we should send money, period, or send money and not complain because we aren't sending as much as they think the city should have," he said. "That's inconsistent with accountability."

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke had helped the school system lobby to save the money. School officials prepared a lengthy report showing that they had implemented or were working on more than 90 percent of the recommendations of a management consultant. A bus load of parents and others from schools traveled to Annapolis for a rally to save the funds. Throughout the battle, school officials said the proposed cut would hurt Baltimore's schoolchildren.

Baltimore school administrators will feel the sting only if they fail to improve by a Jan. 15, 1996, deadline, Delegate Rawlings said yesterday. It targets the state's share of the school administrators' salaries and benefits.

"We were very careful that this was not targeted at teachers or children," said Delegate Rawlings, who is frustrated by the school system's response to his calls for management improvements recommended by the 1992 consultant's report.

"This reform focus is on well-educated, well-salaried individuals who live in comfortable houses," he said. "We expect a high level of performance from them."

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