Former city education chief plans to sue state for funds for low-performing schools Farfel says governor failed to honor $10 million pledge

October 06, 1998|By Liz Bowie | Liz Bowie,SUN STAFF

A former Baltimore school board chairman who believes the governor has reneged on a $10 million promise to give some of the city's worst schools a financial boost plans to take his case to the Circuit Court today.

Phillip H. Farfel will file a motion in Baltimore Circuit Court asking that the state be required to pay the schools the $10 million annually over the next four years.

"I have decided to stand up and file this motion and make sure that this money gets to the kids and make sure 35 local communities receive what they were committed to," said Farfel.

The money would have gone directly to 35 city schools labeled low-performing by the state in 1996 because the students performed poorly on statewide tests. All other low-performing schools in the state were given additional funding this year in an attempt to improve teaching. The schools are often in areas of high poverty and are in danger of being taken over by the state.

Farfel is not alone in his opinion. Last winter, the city school board and the American Civil Lib- erties Union of Maryland argued with the governor's office that the money should have been in this year's budget.

School board Chairman J. Tyson Tildon said yesterday that the board will be seeking advice from its attorney about what legal position it will take. "It is a major topic for us," he said. He said the board does believe the money should have been theirs.

Susan Goering, ACLU's executive director, said the organization decided last winter not to pursue the issue for practical reasons.

"We picked the issue that we believed would bear the most fruit and it did," she said. Her organization and school officials lobbied for and got about $8.9 million in additional funding from the legislature for the new low-performing schools the state had designated last year and for schools with children living in poverty.

Goering said that if a hearing is held, "We have legal arguments prepared and will make them."

Farfel will argue that when the state and city settled a school-funding lawsuit and drew up a partnership to run the city school system in 1996, the state agreed to give the city an additional $254 million in funding over four years.

State officials agreed as part of the settlement that the money would not supplant current funding. But the next year, the governor's proposed budget excluded $10 million that had been given the previous year to 35 schools in the city.

Farfel was a party in the school-funding lawsuit, known as the TC Bradford case, and he believes he can ask Judge Joseph H. H. Kaplan to rule on whether the governor violated the agreement, which Kaplan negotiated.

The governor's office has argued that funding was never guaranteed in the annual budget.

The governor's office did not respond to phone calls on the issue.

"If the state takes dollars out of that settlement, children get hurt," said Farfel, who has two daughters in the second and eighth grades in city schools.

Elizabeth Colette, Farfel's attorney, said the motion will be filed by noon tomorrow.

Pub Date: 10/06/98

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