The best thing for city schools?

Money: Governor can buy peace with a little now, but only if a lot more is on the way.

December 28, 2000

THERE'S WHAT IS right, and there's what is politic.

And then there's what happens to the kids who show up each day at the doors of Baltimore city's public schools -- a predicament that's only right by Dickens' standards and only politic if you don't give two shakes about Baltimore or its future.

City school kids get the shaft from the state when it comes to money. They have for years, and Gov. Parris N. Glendening has showed little predilection for reversing that trend.

That's why city school officials earlier this year revived a funding lawsuit against the state. And that's why Circuit Court Judge Joseph H.H. Kaplan ruled in their favor.

Given those realities, it's a little difficult to accept the idea that city leaders are now talking about backing off their legal challenges in exchange for a $55 million windfall for the schools.

But the money would come now, if the governor agrees. And it would pay for increased teacher salaries. It would put more proverbial gruel on city school kids' plates by paying for basic art, music and gym classes that other children in Maryland take for granted.

This deal, however inadequte it seems, might be the best city schools can do for now.

But there's still the long-term to think about, and that's where Mr. Glendening's mind should be. The Thornton Commission is studying the state's school funding formula to find ways to make it more equitable.

And in 2002, the current funding agreement for Baltimore City (based on the reforms adopted in 1997) will expire.

The governor could make a strong statement on behalf of systems like Baltimore's by pushing for a radical recasting of the funding formula.

And even as city leaders accept the governor's check (which can be viewed as a bridge to the more important funding decisions in 2002) they should remind him of what they expect next time around.

Truth is, you could spend $55 million in a day in the city's schools and not address all the problems.

It will take much more -- and a stronger commitment from Annapolis -- to do what's right for Baltimore's children.

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