Toward an agreement on city schools Partnership: Mayor and governor must also satisfy state board and lawsuit plaintiffs.

July 30, 1996

AFTER THEIR meeting last Friday, Gov. Parris N. Glendening and Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke reported they had made progress in shaping a city-state partnership for Baltimore's ailing schools. That good news is overshadowed by the fact that it comes barely a month before classes resume for another year.

The delay in a process that should have been resolved months ago reduces the likelihood of getting any fruits of an agreement to the classrooms this year. Politicians should remember that it is in classrooms, not in offices in City Hall or the State House, where the success or failure of any partnership agreement will ultimately be determined.

The long-running dispute over student achievement and management practices in Baltimore's public schools has often been cast as a political tug-of-war. But its resolution is ultimately a question of education policy. Today, the State Board of Education meets to consider the terms of the partnership. The board's tough-minded support of statewide reform has earned the respect of legislators, who say they will not consider any agreement acceptable unless it gets a stamp of approval from the board and from state schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick. Legislative support is essential, since lawmakers have approval authority over state expenditures.

A major purpose of the proposed partnership is to settle pending litigation, so other parties will also have to be brought on board. The American Civil Liberties Union, the plaintiff in a lawsuit requesting more funding as well as management improvements in city schools, has already expressed concerns about the reported amounts of funding, as well as worries that the agreement will not be tough enough on accountability. It wants to make sure that any settlement includes enough resources and management improvements to produce measurable improvements in student achievement.

It is gratifying to see the governor and the mayor moving toward agreement. But it is important to remember that the two of them cannot reach a consensus all by themselves.

Pub Date: 7/30/96

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