Schools denied funds, city says

Transactions and spending must be detailed, judge says

October 01, 2005|By SARA NEUFELD | SARA NEUFELD,SUN REPORTER

Baltimore city and school officials told a Circuit Court judge yesterday that the state is ignoring his order to funnel millions of extra dollars into the city school system.

Judge Joseph H.H. Kaplan gave the State Department of Education two weeks to document how much additional money it has given the school system since his August 2004 ruling that the state was underfunding the city schools by hundreds of millions of dollars.

Kaplan also ordered the school system to document how it has spent the additional dollars it has received since 2002, when schools around Maryland began receiving money as a result of the so-called Thornton legislation.

Kaplan oversees a school funding case that is more than a decade old, in which he has ruled repeatedly that children in Baltimore are not receiving their constitutionally guaranteed right to an adequate education because of state underfunding. The case, Bradford v. Maryland, was filed by parents and joined by the city and the city school board.

"What the state has been doing is essentially ignoring the court's orders," Elizabeth Harris, a lawyer for the city, said in court yesterday.

Elizabeth Kameen, an assistant attorney general representing the state, argued that "millions and millions of additional dollars have gone into Baltimore city schools since 2004."

In 1996, the city gave up some control of the city schools in exchange for five years of increased state funding. In 2000, Kaplan ruled that the school system was still underfunded by $2,000 to $2,600 per pupil.

While Baltimore is receiving the largest share of money from the Thornton legislation, Kaplan ruled in 2004 that the city schools had been "unlawfully underfunded" by anywhere from $439 million to $835 million in the previous four years.

The state appealed that ruling, and a decision by the Court of Appeals was claimed as a partial victory by all parties.

Kaplan told the parties yesterday to keep the documents they are to submit focused on general education, so as not to interfere with another long-running lawsuit in federal court over the city's special education program.

In that case, U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis this summer authorized the state to manage eight school system departments that affect special education. The state and school system have been arguing over who will pay for the cost of the intervention.

"The elephant is my problem," Kaplan said. "The elephant's tail is Judge Garbis' problem."

sara.neufeld@baltsun.com

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