Panel poised to cut funds from city schools accord Delegates unable to justify $7.6 million in grants

March 07, 1997|By Thomas W. Waldron and C. Fraser Smith | Thomas W. Waldron and C. Fraser Smith,SUN STAFF

Unable to justify certain grants, the House Appropriations Committee is expected today to cut $7.6 million from the proposed state aid package for Baltimore schools.

Many legislators from around the state had objected in particular to $5.6 million that was in the package.

The money was an enrollment-driven grant that was guaranteed even if the city's school enrollment did not meet projections. In other words, the city was to receive the money no matter what happened to its enrollment.

"It's bad policy, a disincentive for them to reduce the dropout rate," said Del. Howard P. Rawlings, a Baltimore Democrat and chairman of the committee.

The Appropriations Committee also is expected today to slice $2 million in state aid to the schools -- money that had been contingent on the city's establishing a teacher evaluation system, which has not happened.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said last night that he was "concerned" about the cuts and would discuss them with legislators.

The $5.6 million is included in a state aid package for Baltimore schools designed to settle three lawsuits over conditions in the schools.

As part of the consent decree settling the suits, the state is due to give the city $254 million in extra aid over the next five years.

The decree, which was signed by city and state officials in November, also calls for the creation of a school board to run the school system, with its members jointly appointed by the mayor and governor.

Legislation to enact the terms of the consent decree received strong support from administration officials, some parents and state school board members at a legislative hearing last night in Annapolis.

Among the major opponents of the bill were representatives of unions representing school system employees. The unions worry that their members will lose some collective bargaining rights under the new system.

Union officials have persuaded city and state officials to agree to several changes in the bill.

But after weeks of negotiations, city and state officials have been unable to resolve some thorny labor issues.

Topping the list of questions is how to handle teachers' accumulated sick leave as the new board takes control of the system. Under the current system, city teachers can be paid for as many as 75 days of unused sick leave when they retire.

The proposed new structure includes no such provision, although teachers will negotiate a new contract with the new school board that could include a similar provision.

"With the [low] salaries teachers have, that's one of the things they count on when they finally retire," said Marcia Brown, president of the Baltimore Teachers Union.

Pub Date: 3/07/97

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