Lawmakers to hear report on schools' progress

January 26, 1996|By John Rivera | John Rivera,SUN STAFF

Nearly $6 million in state funding for Baltimore's schools is at stake as the General Assembly's budget committees meet today to hear a report critical of school administrators' progress in addressing required reforms.

Lawmakers held up the money in April and said it would not be released unless Baltimore school officials could show "substantial progress" in enacting the reforms recommended by consultant in a 1992 report.

Today's session will match city and school officials, who are defending their progress, against state schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick, who has been asked by legislators to make a recommendation on whether to release the funding that had been earmarked for school administrative salaries and benefits.

The hearing comes in the midst of a city-state dispute over how Baltimore's schools are run. The city has sued the state, claiming its schools are underfunded; the state countersued, asserting that Baltimore school officials mismanage the money they receive.

In the most recent development, the state today will order Baltimore to restructure 35 city schools with poor test scores and attendance, adding to the five schools that the city is reorganizing under state supervision.

But city and state officials are quietly trying to negotiate a settlement of the lawsuits that would give the state partial control of Baltimore's schools in return for more state aid.

Baltimore schools Superintendent Walter G. Amprey said he will emphasize that his administration is making progress in implementing the management reforms.

"For people who are impatient, they might say these things should have been done before," he said. "But the important thing is that we are moving in that direction and getting things done."

Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman, chairwoman of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, said a decision on releasing the $5.9 million will not be made until later in the budget process.

According to a report to be delivered today by MGT of America Inc. of Tallahassee, Fla., a consultant hired by the state Department of Education, the city school district made "only a minimal effort" to implement 39 of 53 recommendations from a 1992 report.

The focus of those recommendations is the reorganization of the district's central office to encourage the development of "enterprise schools," a concept in which individual schools are granted increased authority and autonomy to devise ways to increase student achievement.

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