Summer school money sought

City board members complain governor hasn't financed effort

`We have such a dire need'

March 01, 2000|By Liz Bowie and JoAnna Daemmrich | Liz Bowie and JoAnna Daemmrich,SUN STAFF

An ambitious plan to raise academic standards and help thousands of city schoolchildren catch up has plenty of support -- but not enough money.

City school board members and administrators expressed frustration last night that Gov. Parris N. Glendening has not included money in his supplemental budget for summer school for failing second- and fourth-graders or tutoring and after-school remedial help.

"We have such a dire need for additional funding," said Robert Booker, chief executive officer. "We must provide extra programs for children who are not achieving at this time."

The school board voted last fall to begin holding back students who couldn't pass basic tests for their grade, but only if they were assured that those children would get the help they need to catch up.

Unless the governor and state legislature agree to provide millions in new aid, the district will be forced to dramatically scale back the project, Booker said.

While half of the city's second- and fourth-graders might fail this year, the school system will have only $4 million of the $8 million it needs to give all the children summer school.

The governor will present a second supplementary budget in the coming weeks, and school board members hope to see some of the $49 million in additional money they are seeking to do everything from reforming middle and high schools to recruiting better teachers to the schools.

They argue that Glendening is required under a law passed in 1997 to make his best effort to fund additional requests from the school board this year.

The board has submitted a detailed proposal to the legislature, called its "remedy plan," listing 10 ways it would spend the money to improve the ailing school system.

"So far, the governor has not put one penny of the $49 million requested in his budget, and that money would fund the very important programs the school system is proposing," said Bebe Verdery, education reform director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland.

Members of the Baltimore City Council of PTAs said hundreds of parents went to Annapolis this week to lobby state officials, and that they would keep up the pressure with a letter-writing campaign.

"Everything we have done in the last year is going to come down to the next few weeks," said school board member Sam Stringfield.

In other business last night, consultants presented a preliminary report suggesting that the district's enrollment decline could require the closing of some elementary and middle schools in the next few years.

Many inner-city schools were built for twice as many students as they have -- the consequence of three decades of middle-class migration from Baltimore to the suburbs.

Other schools north of downtown are overcrowded.

Three pupils from Leith Walk Elementary in Northeast Baltimore appealed to the school board last night for another portable classroom. They told the board that they were "knocking elbows" in the cafeteria and had a "library split up into three parts."

The system's enrollment has dropped by more than 60,000 students since the early 1960s -- and is predicted to fall from today's 103,000 to 80,000 in the next decade.

3D International, a large facilities consulting firm, is conducting a school-by-school survey to determine which schools are least used.

Based on initial results from a third of the 184 schools, the consultants suggested there are too many schools. But they did not identify specific schools for closure.

The consultants plan to discuss the survey at a series of community meetings in the next few months.

The first will be held March 21 at Mergenthaler Vocational-Technical School.

The school board will decide how many schools -- and which ones -- to close depending on the amount of space needed to continue reducing class size.

Also, the board is looking at whether to continue or expand the number of schools that have kindergarten to eighth grade. That system, once commonplace, was all but abandoned with the rise of independent middle schools.

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