Carter details plans to improve Baltimore schools

Mayoral candidate would use 20 percent of city budget for education

Baltimore Votes

Sept. 11, 2007

August 16, 2007|By Sara Neufeld | Sara Neufeld,Sun reporter

Mayoral candidate Del. Jill P. Carter laid out her vision for improving education in Baltimore yesterday, pledging to boost city funding to the public schools while also demanding more from the state.

Standing near the school system's North Avenue headquarters, Carter pledged to allocate 20 percent of the city budget for education, compared with what she said is about 11 percent now. She said she would cut excessive administrative costs at school system headquarters and City Hall to make more money available for classrooms and teachers.

"Our children are not failing," she said. "We are failing our children. We have the worst school system in the state."

Carter said she would use the extra money to deploy more student-attendance workers and boost enrollment in the city's magnet high schools. She would recruit mentors for 5,000 children and increase money for after-school and preschool programs, a dropout prevention program, and social services. She would also double several things: the city's funds for school renovations, the number of city-funded youth summer jobs and the number of city charter schools.

Nearly all of the eight candidates in the mayor's race are calling for a change in the way the city school system is governed, but Carter said she is the only one with a track record to demonstrate her advocacy for education.

"Once again, they're repeating everything I say," she said of her opponents. She is the only candidate to call for specific large increases in city funding for the school system.

The city school board is appointed jointly by the mayor and the governor, a structure that critics say has left neither party accountable.

Carter said she wants a majority of school board members elected and the rest to be appointed by the mayor.

But yesterday morning, material was posted on her campaign Web site that said she wanted only a third of the board -- or three of the nine members -- to be elected. She said during the afternoon news conference that the Web site material was "outdated," and she had spoken to a representative of a parent advocacy group who wants a majority-elected board.

"I defer to parents," she said.

But her announcement outside school system headquarters was not without its struggles -- which included getting stuck in traffic and showing up late, being forced to take down campaign signs on city property, and arguing with a worker from another campaign who tried to drown her out.

The news conference was called for 1 p.m., but Carter did not arrive until 1:20 p.m..

During those 20 minutes, school officials ordered that more than two dozen green-and-white Carter signs be moved off the headquarters property.

Meanwhile, a pickup truck drove by with a big, bright orange Keiffer Mitchell sign on the back. Mitchell, a city councilman, is one of Carter's opponents in the Sept. 11 Democratic primary.

"The next mayor for Baltimore will be Keiffer Mitchell," the truck's driver, 56-year-old William "Ziggy" Cirigliano, yelled into a megaphone as he drove past.

Cirigliano parked, got out of the vehicle and struck up a conversation with the two reporters waiting for Carter. He might not be able to vote for Mitchell, he said (he lives in Baltimore County and is a registered Republican), but he enjoys campaigning for him.

"Keiffer Mitchell's been on the City Council for 12 years, and he's done absolutely nothing on any issue, including education," Carter told Cirigliano. He told her she's a "nice lady" but not his choice for mayor.

"Get away from my press conference, please," she said angrily.

sara.neufeld@baltsun.com

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