Standoff over city schools eases Schmoke, Glendening reach 'conceptual' partnership accord

July 27, 1996|By Jean Thompson and Thomas W. Waldron | Jean Thompson and Thomas W. Waldron,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer William F. Zorzi Jr. contributed to this article.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening and Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke yesterday said they have reached a "conceptual agreement" in which the city would cede some control over its beleaguered school system to Maryland officials in exchange for increased state education aid.

The two men declined to discuss details, but sources who were told about the tentative agreement said it calls for replacing the city school board with a new panel appointed by the governor and mayor.

In addition, the school system would hire three new top administrative officials, eliminating the position of superintendent, and develop a five-year improvement plan.

In exchange, the governor has pledged to funnel at least $150 million to the city schools over the next five years, the sources said.

Emerging from a two-hour private session in the governor's office in Annapolis, the two men said they are working on the "framework" of a deal, and because they need the support of lawmakers and constituents, they are not ready to divulge specifics.

"I am very pleased that we have made substantial progress, and we have reached a conceptual agreement on a number of key issues," Glendening said.

Glendening and Schmoke have been negotiating in an effort to avoid going to court on a lawsuit filed by the city seeking increased state education aid. A trial is scheduled for November.

In May, Glendening demanded progress in reaching a city-state "partnership" by tomorrow, and had threatened to withhold nearly $6 million in state aid if he did not get it.

Sources said the mayor and governor have been discussing a five-year, city-state partnership with the following elements:

Maryland would send about $150 million in new school aid to Baltimore in increments between 1998 and 2001. At the mayor's urging, Glendening agreed to increase the first year's allotment from $20 million to $30 million. Some of that aid would be earmarked for improving teacher salaries.

The city's school board, made up of nine mayoral appointees, would be replaced. The new seven-member board, to be composed of city residents, would be nominated by the state Board of Education and selected by the mayor and governor.

A five-year plan for improving student achievement would be developed.

The new school board would hire a chief executive officer, chief academic officer and chief financial officer to manage the school system. The proposed hierarchy, virtually unchanged from months ago, would not include a superintendent of schools.

City and state officials would not comment yesterday on the fate of schools Superintendent Walter G. Amprey, although some legislators suggested that Amprey would not fit into a new management structure.

Schmoke revealed none of the details during a meeting with teachers late yesterday, and told them he would make no final decisions until he had consulted with them again in the middle of next month.

Amprey 'unlikely' to stay

Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman, a key legislative proponent of educational reform in Baltimore, said Amprey's future would be left to the new board. "But it would be highly unlikely that they would turn to someone who has not been successful," she said.

Amprey is away on vacation this week and calls to his home and pager were not answered.

Schmoke yesterday retreated from an idea he floated calling for the state to legalize some casino gambling in Baltimore, with the proceeds dedicated to education funding. The mayor said, though, that he still supports authorizing state racetracks to offer slot machines.

At nearly every step, the makers of this complex deal will encounter political and logistical hurdles. Nevertheless, the governor and the mayor emphasized the need to respond now for rapid change: They announced yester- day that they plan to enact changes before schools open in September.

Schmoke, who has met with concerned parents, teachers and clergy in recent days, hoped the signs of progress would shake free state aid withheld this fiscal year by the General Assembly.

Lawmakers froze $24 million to prod the mayor to agree to a city-state partnership to manage the schools. In response, Schmoke recently ordered the school system to cut principals' budgets.

"At least at this hour, I feel more confident that we will not have to make the kind of drastic budget cuts, further cuts, that we thought we would have to make two weeks ago," he said. "I tried to reflect in my meeting with the governor the concerns raised by parents and principals and look, we also did talk about the politics of the situation."

'You find the money'

Key legislators said they were encouraged by the latest signs of progress.

Hoffman, chairwoman of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, said it would not be hard for the state to fund $30 million in additional aid for the city schools -- as long as the legislature accepts the framework agreed to by the mayor and governor.

"My experience has been that when you want to find the money, you find the money," said Hoffman, a Baltimore Democrat.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.