Schools to get $12 million in emergency aid Glendening acts as talks are renewed on state takeover

City to back off on lawsuit

Key legislators agree to free $5.9 million in frozen funds

March 29, 1996|By Thomas W. Waldron and Peter Jensen | Thomas W. Waldron and Peter Jensen,SUN STAFF

Gov. Parris N. Glendening agreed yesterday to funnel $12 million in emergency aid to Baltimore's struggling school system amid renewed negotiations concerning a state takeover of city education, a gubernatorial spokesman confirmed last night.

After a round of discussions this week, Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and the governor have agreed to rekindle their efforts to establish some form of state control over the city school system -- or "partnership" -- said John W. Frece, a spokesman for the governor.

In addition, the city has agreed to put its lawsuit seeking an increase in state education funding on the "back burner" in anticipation of a negotiated settlement in the coming months, Mr. Frece said.

"The governor has told the mayor that he is willing to work with him over the rest of the year on additional funding for city schools" as long as their partnership talks make progress, Mr. Frece said.

In addition to the new state aid, key lawmakers have agreed to free up $5.9 million in state education funds that the legislature had frozen in an attempt to force major management changes at the city school system's North Avenue headquarters.

Mr. Schmoke has made it clear in the past few months that he is willing to accept some state control of the school system in exchange for a substantial increase in state education aid.

Clinton R. Coleman, a spokesman for Mr. Schmoke, declined to comment on the matter last night.

The agreement on additional school funding for failing schools follows two days of closed-door meetings involving Mr. Glendening; Mr. Schmoke; state school Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick; House Appropriations Chairman Howard P. Rawlings, a Baltimore Democrat; and Barbara A. Hoffman, another city Democrat who is chairwoman of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee.

With the state budget for next year due to be enacted by Monday, city and state officials had tried to reach a long-term settlement this week. Officials now hope to have an agreement before the 1997 legislative session begins in January.

Mr. Rawlings has agreed to work to free up the $5.9 million in school aid for the current budget year, but he said he still wants the General Assembly to withhold $14.6 million in city education aid from the next fiscal year's budget

The money would be held hostage until a state-city partnership was nailed down. That provision has been adopted by the House of Delegates but has been opposed by the Senate.

"This whole deal depends on trust," Mr. Rawlings said. "If we don't have an agreement when the General Assembly meets again next January, I and Senator Hoffman would regard that as a betrayal of our agreement."

With city students' test scores lagging and problems mounting, state education officials and some key lawmakers have pushed aggressively for more state control of the Baltimore school system.

One proposal would have eliminated the city's superintendent and school board and replaced them with a new governing structure appointed by city and state officials.

Officials declined yesterday to discuss what kind of state oversight is being considered.

As part of the agreement reached with city officials this week, the governor is expected to submit a supplemental budget DTC today including $10 million to help 37 city schools deemed by state officials to be failing and in need of "reconstitution," sources said.

The state also would give the city $2 million as the first installment of a phased-in effort to bring city teachers' salaries closer to those of their counterparts in surrounding areas.

The supplemental budget must be approved by a House-Senate conference committee that was formed to make final the state's proposed $14.5 billion fiscal 1997 budget. The committee must complete its work before Monday's constitutional deadline for enactment of a state budget, which leaves little time for debate.

The governor's supplemental budget also will include $1.25 million to enable the state Department of Education to provide oversight of struggling schools in Baltimore and two other jurisdictions.

The proposal is expected to offer $210,000 for failing schools in Anne Arundel County and $140,000 for one such school in Somerset County.

The budget also will include $7 million in additional aid to build schools in Montgomery County, which sources said is repayment for votes last week in favor of the Baltimore football stadium by five Montgomery delegates.

Pub Date: 3/29/96

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