State makes final offer to city schools

$30 million aid now, pledge to seek more

June 22, 2000|By Howard Libit | Howard Libit,SUN STAFF

Gov. Parris N. Glendening turned up the heat yesterday on negotiations with Baltimore education officials, saying the state has made its final offer of aid to city schools and is prepared to head into court next week if that proposal is rejected.

Glendening has offered to give the city $30 million of the $49 million in extra aid it is seeking for the coming school year, with a pledge to do all he can to provide the entire $49 million for the 2001-2002 school year, according to a spokesman for the governor.

"The governor is committed to making every effort to get the $49 million for next year, assuming he gets legislative approval and it does not create a deficit in the budget," said spokesman Michael Morrill. "The city school board has not responded, but that is the only offer on the table."

In a letter yesterday to city officials, the governor's staff outlined the offer and said that no more money than that is available for the coming school year.

State officials also called off a meeting that city school officials had tried to set up for yesterday afternoon, indicating there is no need for further negotiations because they have no more room to compromise.

Lawyers for the city and the American Civil Liberties Union refused to comment yesterday afternoon. But late into yesterday evening, they met in the chambers of Baltimore Circuit Judge Joseph H. H. Kaplan, deciding how they should respond.

Others familiar with the state's proposal said it is not substantially different from what the state was offering earlier this month, just before the city decided to go back into court.

Yesterday's decision by the governor comes less than a week before city schools and the state are to square off in Kaplan's courtroom over the amount of state education aid.

The Baltimore school system filed an 80-page petition earlier this month to reopen the 1996 settlement of a lawsuit by the ACLU, challenging how Maryland financed the city schools. That settlement produced a landmark partnership in which the city relinquished some control over the schools in exchange for an additional $254 million in state aid over five years.

The settlement allowed the city to seek more state money this year. A consultant's report said Baltimore needs about $260 million more per year to meet the needs of its students.

The governor's office argues the state has increased its per-pupil contribution by almost 63 percent as a result of the settlement.

If no agreement is reached by Monday, state lawyers are expected to argue in court that a local judge does not have the authority to order the governor and General Assembly to spend money.

The city's move to go back into court also has added urgency to a state task force charged with revising how Maryland divides money among local school systems.

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