Schmoke says school aid offer falls short State's demands called 'insulting'

June 21, 1996|By Jean Thompson | Jean Thompson,SUN STAFF

Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke dismissed as too low yesterday the state's offer this week of $140 million in new school aid and called the state's insistence on improvements in managing the school system "insulting and paternalistic."

In a sharply worded letter to Gov. Parris N. Glendening, Schmoke revealed how far apart the city and state remain in their year-old dispute over school reform, management and finances.

On matters of school leadership and improvement, there is no agreement. On the money issue, Schmoke made it clear that he views the governor's offer as insufficient.

This week's exchange of letters by Schmoke and Glendening suggests that no settlement is in sight for the city's lawsuit seeking a greater share of state school aid, or for the state's counter-suit claiming the city does not manage its school money well.

"The issue we have to resolve is money, not bureaucracy," Schmoke wrote.

Schmoke could not be reached for comment last night. His spokesman, Clinton R. Coleman, said the letter, sent to several state officials, "speaks for itself."

On Tuesday, Glendening offered to find $140 million for city school improvements from 1998 to 2001 if Schmoke would restructure Baltimore's top level of school management, with an increased but unspecified role for the state.

The city now receives about $420 million a year in state education aid.

Glendening's proposal would add $20 million in 1998, and by 2001 the city would receive $50 million more than it does now.

In his reply, Schmoke staked out his negotiating position: The starting place for discussions about money should be at least $100 million a year in additional state support, he said.

Glendening, who was in Atlanta, was not available for comment.

The letter, obtained by The Sun, calls on the state's negotiators to "put aside any question about a new bureaucracy and top-down imposition of so-called 'reforms.'

"You have not shown me any proof that the people you would put in charge have any better ideas about what to do for our children than our current leadership does," Schmoke wrote.

Nancy S. Grasmick, the state superintendent of schools, who had not seen the letter by late yesterday, said, "The state school board has been very clear that there must be conditions associated with management reform. The money and the management issues are married."

In past talks, state officials have proposed recasting city school management, replacing the school board and the superintendent with three executives and a new governing body appointed jointly by the state and city.

Schmoke implied that state leaders' persistent calls for management improvements are offensive.

"The idea that management is the primary problem is insulting and paternalistic, and to my mind gains currency, in certain circles, because it is politically expedient and appeals to popular stereotypes," he wrote.

At a fund-raiser in Baltimore last night, state Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman, chairwoman of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, said the mayor has twisted the state's intent to bolster his case.

"The state does not want to operate Baltimore schools. It wants to ensure that the taxpayers' money is producing results," said the Baltimore Democrat. "Look at the [test] scores. The reason management issues are being discussed is because parents and taxpayers need to have confidence that there will be results."

The governor has set a July 28 deadline for the city to agree to proposed management changes or face financial penalties. Glendening has threatened to withhold almost $6 million in school aid if no agreement is reached.

Pub Date: 6/21/96

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