O'Malley's proposals would save the state $140 million next year. Though Maryland has 24 school districts, 25 percent of the savings would come from cutting Baltimore, and 31 percent would come from Prince George's, according to an ACLU analysis.
"It is nonsensical, and it doesn't speak to a sincerity on behalf of the governor," said Khalilah Harris, director of the foundation supporting Baltimore Freedom Academy, a charter school in the coalition.
Districts would pay more of the cost of schooling special-education students who need private placement. Some districts would be held accountable for increased teacher pension costs. A component of Thornton providing extra dollars where the cost of running schools is high would be eliminated, although that would be the easiest piece to restore for a single year with the stimulus money.
Advocates point to the recent progress in Baltimore schools, including improved test scores and an end to 40 years of enrollment decline. "This is a moment in time we have been working for, a time when putting money toward the public schools is truly an investment," said Bobbi Macdonald, co-chair of the Coalition of Baltimore Charter Schools. "If our elected officials are going to represent us, then they need to take a stand for fully funding our schools now."
State Sen. Nathaniel J. McFadden, chair of the Baltimore delegation, said he and other legislators have been involved in "very delicate, very private negotiations" over school funding with the governor and colleagues from the counties. "I can tell you, we've been working extremely hard," said McFadden, a longtime city schools employee.
Advocates in Prince George's County don't appear to be as vocal or organized as those in Baltimore.
Regardless of the outcome of the budget situation, the coalition members say they have taken a major step to improve Baltimore schools by joining together. While wealthier, suburban jurisdictions can typically rally quickly against a given problem, that has long been lacking in the city.
"It's a springboard for something Baltimore has been lagging behind on," Harris said.