Authority would fund after-school programs Main goal is to keep children from trouble

February 22, 1996|By Marilyn McCraven | Marilyn McCraven,SUN STAFF

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and BUILD, a community group, are planning to unveil tonight a novel public authority that would pay for after-school programs for city public school students.

The programs would include recreation and cultural and academic enrichment activities.

Mr. Schmoke plans to raise at least $1.5 million in start-up money from private sources to fund programs beginning in September in 10 city schools, said spokesman Clinton R. Coleman.

But one of the mayor's funding ideas -- a 25-cent tax on tickets for the Orioles and Baltimore's new professional football franchise -- is already in trouble.

Peter G. Angelos, owner of the Orioles, said he's reluctant to place another tax on baseball tickets. But he said the Orioles likely would contribute to "this worthwhile program."

Art Modell, owner of Baltimore's NFL franchise, could not be reached for comment.

The mayor also is planning to ask the managers of the Baltimore Arena to contribute part of the Arena's profits to the children's authority, BUILD officials say. The city is soon to renegotiate its contract with Arena managers.

Another funding source could be part of fees generated by the newly privatized corporation that governs municipal golf courses, the officials say.

BUILD, a church-based group, is spearheading creation of the Child First Authority, which supporters believe would be the first of its kind. It would solicit money from private sources and, like the Maryland Stadium Authority, have power to sell bonds to finance purchases of equipment and renovate schools that don't have adequate space for recreation.

The key reason for starting the authority is to keep school-age children safe between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., the hours they're most likely to get into trouble, say officials of BUILD, Baltimoreans United In Leadership Development.

The lack of adequate after-school care for the children of working parents was a key concern of parents and churches surveyed by BUILD last fall, said Kathleen O'Toole, an organizer for the group.

BUILD estimates that annual operation of the program will cost approximately $100,000 -- with $75,000 going to programs, and the rest to building renovations.

The goal is to have after-care programs at 40 schools within three years. A small administrative staff would help coordinate the program, and part-time workers and volunteers would work with children at the schools.

Making the program a reality will require state legislative action. A hearing will be held next week on a bill to create the authority. The measure was introduced by Del. Howard "Pete" Rawlings, a Baltimore Democrat.

BUILD officials say creating an authority is better than a program that relies on the vagaries of public funding.

"When a community decides that something is important, it creates an authority," said the Rev. Douglas I. Miles, a BUILD leader. "This says we're putting our young people first."

Taxing sports tickets would tap sources that have benefited from the state's largess, BUILD leaders say.

Mr. Angelos, while indicating a willingness to make a contribution, said he needs to learn more details about the scope of the program and the funding mechanism.

BUILD will ask its members tonight to submit proposals for schools to team up with a BUILD-member church or a neighborhood group to offer an after-care program. The 10 schools will be selected by September.

Tonight's meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. at Heritage United Church of Christ, 3110 Liberty Heights Ave. For more information, call (410) 225-3882.

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