Ministers join PTA group in opposition to giving up control of Baltimore schools Clergy would accept returning issue to court

March 26, 1997|By Jean Thompson | Jean Thompson,SUN STAFF

While legislators in Annapolis shopped for votes to change Baltimore's school budget and management, clergy and parent groups in the city fanned opposition this week.

Spokesmen for the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance and other city leaders yesterday called for legislators to defeat House Bill 312, which would increase the state's role in managing city schools as it adds $254 million over five years to Baltimore's $653 million education budget.

That is "not enough" to warrant state oversight of the largest municipal department, said the Rev. Arnold Howard, Alliance president and pastor of Enon Baptist Church.

Although a sizable increase, the aid would be insufficient to boost per-pupil spending in the city to the levels invested in schools by many suburban counties -- especially with those counties demanding raises in exchange for supporting the legislation.

The ministers prefer an alternative proposal that would bring new state aid to Baltimore without trading school control -- and they also are willing to give up on the General Assembly and start over.

"Even if it means we have to go back to court, we are willing to forgo this because we are about getting justice not just another handout," Howard said at a news conference, where he was joined by 10 ministers, City Council President Lawrence A. Bell III and Rodney Orange, president of the Baltimore City branch of the NAACP.

Their statements followed a weekend rally by the Baltimore City Council of PTAs, which represents about 10,000 parents and teachers in 60 schools. The council voted late last week to oppose the bill.

"It's not enough to make significant changes in the quality of education for our children," PTA council President Rita Ridgley said yesterday.

The council fears the state will ignore its concerns and as evidence points to a provision of the bill creating a new nine-member Baltimore school board with one seat reserved for a parent. "That's not acceptable -- that's not enough," Ridgley said.

Bell, a vocal foe of the bill, called for the city to cast its chances for improving state aid back into the courts. The legislation resulted from a consent decree settling three lawsuits over school conditions; if it does not pass, that agreement would be voided and the cases reopened.

Pub Date: 3/26/97

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