Baltimore schoolchildren will take home letters today to enlist their parents' help in petitioning the governor and state legislature to give the cash-strapped district millions in aid.
The Parent and Community Advisory Committee is organizing the letter-writing campaign in hopes of persuading the state to provide money for summer school, expanded full-day kindergarten, art classes and other programs.
"This is a school system that is taking its best stab at meaningful reforms. But some of the reforms may not get off the drawing board if we don't get additional money," said Michael Hamilton, the committee's president.
Form letters, which can be addressed to individual lawmakers or Gov. Parris N. Glendening, will be distributed today at the city's 184 public schools. The letters list plans to revitalize underachieving city schools and urge the state to provide necessary funds.
The school district is seeking $49 million for a so-called "remedy plan" designed to improve student performance, which has consistently ranked near the bottom on state tests and other standardized measures. The money would go toward initiatives ranging from hiring teachers at higher salaries to sending failing second- and fourth-graders to summer school.
School officials expressed frustration last week when the governor's first supplemental budget was released with no significant new money for the remedial plans. The district's lobbyists have stepped up efforts, and city schools chief executive officer Robert Booker plans to go to Annapolis today to seek more money.
"We're continuing to provide information to help underscore the importance of this funding to our reform efforts," said schools spokeswoman Vanessa Pyatt.
More than 300 parents from across the city rallied Feb. 28 in front of the State House. Parents lobbied Baltimore lawmakers to do their best for the schools, Hamilton said. " `Give us the money' is our rallying cry," he said.