In previous years, the system handled the deficit by deferring payments to vendors and contractors, postponing the problem. But with the deficit growing to $58 million, the press of bills and payroll demands has become overwhelming.
Simply put, the system is no longer able to maintain a balance or reserve large enough to pay its bills as they come due. School officials declined to say when the system would run out of money if the state did not step in.
Kevin A. Slayton, president of the parent advisory board, said the six school board members the group wants ousted have "watched almost silently" while the system's finances have spiraled out of control.
Michael Hamilton, president of the Baltimore Council of PTAs, said questions and feedback from parents and community members too often goes ignored by the board.
"We can't excuse the fact that answers have still to come forward about how we got to this point," he said.
Parents and community groups have called for criminal investigations into the schools' finances, and Grasmick has appointed a panel to look into how the system has handled its money.
Members of the city's House delegation, who were drafting a statement of support for students, parents and teachers, expressed concerns about the investigative panel and how it will proceed. They were working out the details of the statement last night.
O'Malley said the $58 million did not just disappear. He pointed out that past school boards were more focused on improving the academic side of the school system.
The mayor was critical yesterday of Ehrlich's earlier statements about money for Baltimore schools.
"There's been some talk about throwing good money after bad," O'Malley said. "Let's make no mistake about it, folks, the investment we made as people when we decided that we were going to invest in the education of children - even if they happened to be born in one of the poorer jurisdictions of this state - was not bad money."
Sun staff writers Doug Donovan, Howard Libit, David Nitkin and Ivan Penn contributed to this article.