Students sue to seize state schools power



Students from the Baltimore Algebra Project, a tutoring and advocacy group, filed a motion in Circuit Court yesterday asking for the right to temporarily take over the powers of the state school board so they can request $800 million for the city schools.

If Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. doesn't respond to that request and allocate the money, the motion says, "we will also temporarily take over the duties of the Governor."

The motion was filed with Judge Joseph H.H. Kaplan, who presides over a long-running school funding case. In August 2004, he ruled that the state had "unlawfully underfunded" city schools by $400 million to $800 million since 2000.

The students argue that they are being denied their constitutional right to an education because of the state's noncompliance with Kaplan's order. "We have done nothing wrong, and are denied our rights only because we reside in Baltimore City," their motion says.

State officials have repeatedly argued that they give more money to the city schools than to any other system in Maryland, and that funding has been increasing every year under the so-called Thornton legislation to equalize systems' resources.

"Clearly the students don't understand the amount of money the state has been providing the Baltimore public schools over the past several years," said William Reinhard, a spokesman for the Maryland State Department of Education. "They may have received some incomplete information from their advisers."

The Algebra Project staged a three-day student walkout from classes in March to protest the impending closure of several city school buildings.

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