Parents, students, school staff and advocates from the Baltimore… (Baltimore Sun photo by Sara…)
Busloads of Baltimore schoolchildren, parents and teachers traveled to Annapolis late yesterday to decry education funding cuts under consideration as lawmakers search for ways to squeeze the state budget.
"There are some things that are indispensable," said Rodney Burris, a parent with a child at Walter P. Carter Elementary School who spoke at a rally attended by about 500 people outside the State House. "Education for our children is one of those things."
Education advocates singled out as particularly toxic a proposal that would allow local governments to slash education funding without suffering state penalties. Co-sponsored by more than two dozen members of the House of Delegates, primarily Democrats from Montgomery and Prince George's counties, the legislation comes as a reaction to the state school board's refusal to grant any waivers last year to local education spending requirements known as "maintenance of effort."
Del. Cheryl D. Glenn, one of two Baltimore lawmakers listed as a co-sponsor, vowed to take her name off the bill, saying she had not understood its implications. "Education is my passion," Glenn, a Democrat and former teachers union organizer, said at the rally.
A less sweeping maintenance-of-effort proposal that would force the state school board to weigh a local government's overall economy and history of education spending when considering a waiver has gained broader support, including from some education advocates such as the Maryland ACLU.
Speakers at the rally also urged lawmakers to back Gov. Martin O'Malley's budget, which fully funds state education requirements, resulting in about a 3 percent spending increase next year.
In recent weeks, Republican lawmakers have proposed erasing extra funding that benefits both low-income and high cost-of-living urban areas.
"No cuts, not one," said Carol Krawczyk, an organizer with Baltimore's Child First Authority, as city lawmakers gathered at the rally, which was organized by the Baltimore Education Coalition.
Sen. Nathaniel J. McFadden, a city teacher for four decades, said education had saved his family, "coming out of the projects to here."
Other lawmakers noted that city schools, which include 80,000 students and 6,000 teachers, have seen better results in recent years. Education advocates worry that the state's progress - its public school system was ranked first in the nation this year and last by Education Week - could be jeopardized by decreased funding.
"Our students are making progress," said Kimberly Worthington, who teaches math at Holabird Middle School. She said cuts would send the message that those gains didn't matter.