Students voice concerns on funding

Judge meets with 2 critics after protest over schools

April 06, 2004|By Liz Bowie | Liz Bowie,SUN STAFF

After hearing Baltimore students protest the lack of adequate state funding for their schools on Calvert Street yesterday morning, Baltimore Circuit Judge Joseph H.H. Kaplan invited two student representatives into his chambers to discuss their concerns.

The students presented Kaplan with a letter saying they believed Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and state Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick should be held in contempt of court for failing to comply with an order Kaplan had issued in 2000.

The students, who protested with bullhorns yesterday in freezing temperatures on the first day of their spring break, believe that state officials have not delivered enough money to the city schools after Kaplan ruled four years ago that the state should provide the school system with about $2,000 more per student per year.

The ruling came in a case begun a decade ago when two lawsuits were filed against the state charging that it had failed in its constitutional obligation to provide every child with an adequate education.

Although the students who demonstrated yesterday have no legal standing in the school funding cases, Kaplan told the two City College students, Greg Little and Charnell Covert, they would be able to comment on plans being filed by the city schools detailing how the system will operate in the next year.

"I think it is a step in the right direction for the students to get a voice in their education," Little said.

The 10th-grader said his school needs new textbooks, repairs to the building and more teachers.

Kaplan still presides over the cases that were the foundation for reforms of the city schools that began in 1997 and created the current management structure.

He is holding a meeting April 14 to allow the parties in the old school funding cases to comment on how to fix the school system's financial problems. The American Civil Liberties Union and the city filed suit against the state, and parents of special education students sued the city.

The system has a $58 million deficit and recently received a $42 million loan to cover a severe cash-flow problem. The system must pay back the majority of the loan by August.

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