Deal to aid city schools unraveling Key lawmakers call Schmoke-Glendening accord inadequate

Baltimore mayor defiant

Grasmick, Riddick doubtful

Schmoke expects court battle

August 07, 1996|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,SUN STAFF Sun staff writers Michael Dresser and Michael James contributed to this article.

Key lawmakers said yesterday that they will insist on legislation to force changes in the management of the Baltimore school system, saying the gentlemen's agreement between Gov. Parris N. Glendening and Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke lacks teeth and doesn't go far enough.

Schmoke responded with a defiant statement saying such legislation would amount to an unacceptable state "takeover" of the city schools -- and said he expected the dispute would have to be resolved in a courtroom showdown this fall.

"We seem so far apart on the fundamental issues," Schmoke told reporters at City Hall. "I believe that whatever happens in the future will probably have to be resolved by the court."

The day's developments suggested that the July 26 agreement between Glendening and Schmoke for a city-state "partnership" to oversee Baltimore's schools is unraveling quickly.

"Until today, I don't think we realized how badly the parties had struck out," said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. "I think we should let the litigation just follow its course."

After months of on-again, off-again negotiations, the mayor and governor announced last month that they had agreed on a framework for jointly managing the city school system.

Both men said they hoped the framework -- to be implemented through a "memorandum of understanding," not changes in law -- would lead to settlement of the city's lawsuit seeking significant increases in state education aid.

The governor said he had agreed to increase state education funding to Baltimore by $182 million over the next five years. In exchange, he would be given the authority to appoint, along with the mayor, the seven members of a newly formed city school board.

But at a hearing in Annapolis yesterday, even Glendening's own superintendent of schools, Nancy S. Grasmick, called the agreement inadequate. She said more than a handshake would be needed to settle the legal dispute -- either a formal pact approved by a judge or changes in the law governing the city school system.

"There has to be either the consent decree or the legislation," Grasmick told legislators.

Other developments revealed further problems with the Glendening-Schmoke deal.

Glendening's chief of staff, Major F. Riddick Jr., repeated the administration's position that, despite assertions by Schmoke, the governor has made no commitment to support slot machine gambling in Maryland and tie some of the proceeds to education.

Grasmick and others said it seemed highly unlikely that the governor and mayor could move quickly enough to carry out their proposed changes before the beginning of school in September -- a goal the two men set when they announced the pact last month.

State Del. Howard P. Rawlings, the Baltimore Democrat who is the influential chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, yesterday unveiled legislation he plans to introduce that would formally take away the mayor's control of the school system.

Instead, a newly established school governing board appointed by the mayor and governor would oversee city education.

"The legislature, at least this legislator, is growing impatient with delay and public posturing," said Rawlings, who has pushed for reform of the city school system for the past three years. "The time has come to resolve this once and for all."

Schmoke blasted the Rawlings proposal yesterday, calling it a legislative power play.

"The legislation that is proposed today by Delegate Rawlings does not address the fundamental problems affecting student achievement," the mayor said in a written statement. "This legislation superimposes on Baltimore City a management structure that essentially amounts to a takeover of our schools."

The mayor reiterated his position that the city school system simply needs more money coupled with some educational reforms, rather than major changes to its management structure.

But Riddick, the governor's chief of staff, told legislators that Glendening would work with them to fashion a resolution that the General Assembly could accept.

"These are the first steps," Riddick said of the governor's agreement with Schmoke. "There are a lot of parties to this issue who still have to touch base or this can't move."

The General Assembly holds a strong hand in any showdown with the mayor or governor.

Without legislative approval, the governor could not funnel more education aid to Baltimore. And even if the city prevails in its lawsuit and wins a court order for more state funding, the legislature could still impose a new governing structure on the city schools.

At yesterday's hearing, dismayed lawmakers took aim at both Glendening and Schmoke, suggesting that it would be an uphill fight to win approval for significant increases in state aid for the city.

"I'm going to be very hesitant in authorizing additional funds when we seem to be ignored," said Del. Norman H. Conway, a Wicomico County Democrat. "It's been one year after another."

"I believe the mayor stonewalled the General Assembly. I believe the mayor stonewalled the governor," added Sen. John A. Cade, an Anne Arundel Republican. "I don't know what the state got out of this agreement, or whatever you call it."

Cade and others said the General Assembly should meet in special session in the coming weeks to enact school reform legislation.

"The legislature has got to take an active hand in this now and not wait for somebody else to get off their duff," Cade said. "We could at least make it clear to the litigants that we mean business."

But Senate President Miller and House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. said the matter could wait until the General Assembly convenes in January.

"This is a very important issue but nothing that can't be resolved in January 1997," said Miller, a Prince George's Democrat.

The city and state are scheduled to go to court Nov. 6 for a trial that state lawyers predict would last about two months.

Pub Date: 8/07/96

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