Deal would grant city $200 million in school aid In exchange, state would gain powers over Balto. system

July 28, 1996|By Jean Thompson and Thomas W. Waldron | Jean Thompson and Thomas W. Waldron,SUN STAFF

Baltimore stands to gain more than $200 million in new state aid during the next five years, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said yesterday as he discussed for the first time the details of his tentative school financing and management deal with Gov. Parris N. Glendening.

In exchange for the additional state aid, Schmoke would give up his sole authority to appoint the city school board and would agree to a unique arrangement allowing outside experts picked by both the city and the state to draft a reform plan.

"What we are talking about is a collaboration that may be unique in education in this country," Schmoke said of the "conceptual agreement" reached Friday with the governor.

"This framework gets us beyond the suspicion that people were trying a takeover by another name," Schmoke said.

The agreement, which still needs approval from the General Assembly, is designed to avoid a November showdown over a lawsuit filed in September by the city seeking increased state school aid.

Strong political allies in the past, the mayor and the governor have been in sometimes acrimonious negotiations for months.

The suit, modeled after another filed in December 1994 by the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, claims that the state fails to meet its obligation to educate the city's children.

The state fought back with a suit alleging that the city mismanages the school aid it receives.

"I firmly believe we have an outstanding case, but as a lawyer I know that there is going to be an appeal, and it's not just about us winning but getting to the remedy," Schmoke said. "If this framework that the governor and I have adopted works, we will get the remedy."

As part of the agreement, the parties involved in the litigation would have to seek a one-year delay of the school-aid trial.

If the increased education aid didn't flow to Baltimore as promised, or if the management arrangement failed to take hold, the case could be reopened, according to Schmoke and Judi Scioli, a spokeswoman for the governor.

Schmoke, who has demanded a substantial increase in state aid in exchange for giving up some control of the school system, said the governor has committed to an increase totaling more than $200 million over five years.

Scioli confirmed that Glendening has pledged a total of $182 million in new school aid for Baltimore over five years, starting with the $12 million already allocated for this fiscal year.

Schmoke would not say yesterday where the additional revenue would come from to boost that offer over $200 million.

"It's not a done deal. It's a framework I can live with because I think it's in the best interests of the children," said Schmoke.

This fiscal year, the state is contributing $494 million to the city's total education budget of $653 million.

Under the arrangement, Schmoke said, an independent "arbiter" would recommend how the additional money should be spent after reviewing existing city and state policies and programs affecting the Baltimore schools.

Schmoke said he has recommended Mathematica Policy Research Inc., a Princeton, N.J., education evaluating firm, to serve as the outside consultant.

The recommendations of the consultant would form the basis of a new citywide school improvement plan.

Under their agreement, the governor and the mayor would jointly select a new seven-member school board while the city and the state are working together to overhaul the school system.

Nominees for the board would be named by the state school board.

Officials hired by the new board would run the school system.

The agreement calls for no change in the City Charter, which specifies a nine-member board made up of mayoral appointees.

"The principle of local control is not destroyed by this action, because the governor is not asking that we change the charter but that we change the procedures," Schmoke said. "Future mayors would not be bound by that."

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. said he had doubts whether the agreement gives the state enough say in running the city school system.

Other states have taken full control of troubled urban systems, he said.

"I'm not certain that these reforms that the mayor and the governor have looked at are the real reforms to do the job," Miller said.

But Scioli, the spokeswoman for the governor, said Glendening is determined to make long-term reform.

"The governor understands that the legislature wants, and he wants, real change, sustainable change," Scioli said. "He will work closely with them to create the model that creates that fundamental change."

House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. applauded the progress made by Schmoke and Glendening but said the increased aid proposed for the city would create some political difficulties in the General Assembly when other jurisdictions also began asking for more.

"We have to continue to be constantly aware of everybody's 'fair share,' " said Taylor, a Cumberland Democrat.

Pub Date: 7/28/96

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