Legislators seek cuts in school pay Top officials in city's system would have to forfeit part of salary

Proposal tied to state aid

$5.9 million in Maryland funds at stake in Baltimore

April 06, 1996|By Jean Thompson and Peter Jensen | Jean Thompson and Peter Jensen,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Thomas W. Waldron contributed to this article.

Seeking to punish Baltimore school officials for lax management, state legislators want them to take pay cuts as a condition of receiving $5.9 million in aid.

Schools Superintendent Walter G. Amprey and about 15 managers would have to forfeit 5 percent of their April, May and June paychecks before the state would return the nearly $6 million withheld from the school system this year.

The legislators recently pledged to restore the money, but had not hinted that strings would be attached. In addition to cutting pay, the proposed legislation would dictate how Baltimore would spend the money: restore the $2.5 million administrators had cut from individual schools, buy instructional materials and invest in training for school-improvement teams and staff.

"I haven't seen the legislation yet, so I wouldn't want to comment until I've talked to city attorneys," Dr. Amprey said. He would lose about $1,750 of his $140,000 salary.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, who spent part of Good Friday in Annapolis, did not return telephone calls.

Sheila Kolman, an administrator assigned by Dr. Amprey to help schools improve, complained about the proposed cuts, which would cost her about $900.

"I think the unfair part of it is that this would penalize people for activities that are not completed in year three of what is supposed to be a five-year plan," she said.

Legislators held back $5.9 million of Baltimore's $420 million school allocation this year, saying they would release it if Dr. Amprey's staff made substantial progress on nearly 40 management overhaul tasks. Despite school officials' argument that they had completed much in the given time, a state-funded audit in January reported too little was finished, and too late.

Lawmakers then proposed eliminating the money altogether. Now they have decided that releasing it with strings attached is preferable to making a cut that would hurt services for children, said Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman, chairwoman of the Budget and Taxation Committee. She drafted the proposal with Del. Howard P. Rawlings, House Appropriations Committee chairman.

"One option was to release the money and be silent about its use, which would be saying it doesn't matter that you didn't meet the [management] goals," she said. Instead, the lawmakers have proposed what she called a "symbolic" penalty to hold Baltimore responsible for its mistakes.

"Public agencies need to know that the legislature will hold them accountable for performance," said Delegate Rawlings, a Baltimore Democrat.

Several lawmakers had opposed cutting the city's money after receiving letters and calls from parents and teachers. "We should not be in the business of punishing a school system that needs support from the state," said Sen. John Pica, a Baltimore Democrat who supports the new plan.

Approved yesterday by the Senate, the proposal is expected to return to the House for action today. If the bill is defeated, the city would get the money with no strings attached, said Senator Hoffman, a Baltimore Democrat.

Pub Date: 4/06/96

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