Schmoke says pretrial solution unlikely in school funding case State, city at odds

court date is Tuesday

November 08, 1996|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,SUN STAFF

Saying the parties remained "pretty far apart," Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said yesterday that he didn't believe a dispute over the funding and management of the city's public schools would be resolved before a new trial date next week.

The trial, originally scheduled to begin two days ago, was postponed until Tuesday by a Baltimore judge to give attorneys more time to craft a settlement -- or prepare to present their case in court.

The case revolves around who is responsible for the dismal academic performance of city schoolchildren -- the state, for not providing enough money to help overcome the poverty-induced social problems many children bring to the classroom, or the city, for mismanaging the funds it receives.

"I am not optimistic about our chances of reaching a settlement before trial. I am optimistic, however, that we might reach a settlement before a judgment," Schmoke said at his weekly news conference yesterday.

"Hopefully, we can continue our efforts to reach a comprehensive settlement. But we're pretty far apart as we speak today."

Schmoke declined to be specific about the differences, but sources have said that the state has offered $254 million over five years in new aid and that the city is asking for up to twice that amount but reportedly is willing to accept much less.

Schmoke said having the case presented in court could help reach an accord.

"I just think that it may be helpful to the settlement process to start the trial and have everybody present their evidence so that the public has a real clear understanding of the facts," Schmoke said. "And then we can judge how much of this problem is a management issue [and] how much of management problems relate to lack of resources."

Pub Date: 11/08/96

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