State to penalize city by keeping $5.9 million from school construction fund, not instruction Governor hopes funding loss will lead to partnership

September 04, 1996|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,SUN STAFF

In a partial thaw of relations between city and state officials, the Glendening administration said yesterday it will extract a $5.9 million penalty against the Baltimore school system from construction funds, rather than classroom instruction expenditures.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening said he still hopes the loss of state funds will provide an incentive for the city to enter into a partnership with the state to run Baltimore's school system. But he said he did not want to hurt classroom instruction.

"This decision will allow programs in which students are directly involved to be continued," Glendening said in a statement.

Yesterday's announcement is the latest development in an long-running dispute between state and local officials over management of Baltimore's schools.

The General Assembly passed a bill earlier this year to withhold $5.9 million in state education aid for Baltimore schools -- to be taken mainly from the salaries of top school administrators -- unless the city agreed to a partnership with the state.

At the urging of Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, Glendening vetoed the bill. But the governor said he would withhold $5.9 million on his own, pending completion of a city-state partnership to oversee the system. Key state legislators and Democratic Rep. Elijah E. Cummings -- who represents a large section of Baltimore -- have urged the governor to withhold the money from construction projects rather than the operating budget, from which classroom expenses are paid.

"I think what this decision does is buy us some time to work on a more lasting and comprehensive solution to problems identified in the city schools without hurting the kids in the meantime," said Baltimore Democratic Del. Howard P. Rawlings, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee and a harsh critic of city school management.

Discussions about a city-state partnership apparently have stopped, and Schmoke says he will pursue the city's lawsuit seeking more state education aid, now scheduled for trial in November.

But Schmoke said in a statement distributed by the governor's office that he applauded the decision to cut construction funds instead of classroom spending.

The state will hold back about $1 million for school construction projects every two months, according to the governor's office.

The money likely would be withheld from renovation projects, such as new roofs and boilers, said state Budget Secretary Frederick W. Puddester.

The governor said he has instructed his staff to work with city officials to identify which projects would be affected.

The projects could proceed as planned, but city officials would have to find the money to make up for the withheld state aid, Puddester said.

Pub Date: 9/04/96

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