- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 16, 2004

BALTIMORE (AP) — State and city officials are continuing to resist a judge’s order to immediately inject up to $45 million in additional funding into city schools, insisting in a recent court filing that they do more than enough for the system already.

“The state superintendent and her staff at MSDE [Maryland State Department of Education] devote significantly more resources and staff time in good-faith efforts to support [Baltimore schools] than MSDE does for any of the other 23 school systems in Maryland,” state officials said in a report filed with the court Friday.

The report listed more than a dozen ways in which the state board of education gave extra help to the city system, from providing instructional leadership training to 156 city principals to dispatching MSDE staff members to assist city school administrators.

Baltimore Circuit Judge Joseph Kaplan ordered city and state officials to provide between $30 million and $45 million in additional funding after finding that the state is underfunding the system by millions of dollars. The court also agreed with education advocates and parents that a Draconian cost-cutting plan to eliminate a $58 million schools-budget deficit would degrade the quality of education.

Since the school year began Sept. 7, students and parents have complained about crowded classes and a shortage of teachers and support staff. School officials have acknowledged that a recent spate of student-set fires and other violence in middle and high schools might have been the result of deep cuts to school staff.

But the three defendants in the suit — the school board, the city and the state — continue to spar over who is responsible for finding a remedy.

The city school board said in its court filing that spending more on staff and services without getting more state or city dollars would “seriously jeopardize [the system’s] tenuous recovery.”

The city said it continues to provide more than its share of funds and dedicates “resources at virtually every level of city government to [Baltimore schools].”

State lawyers, who have appealed Judge Kaplan’s August ruling, argued that the judge is overreaching his authority and violating separation of powers by trying to influence matters of state funding, which are decided by the legislature.

The state said it would be willing, if asked, to advance payments of about $11 million in grants that are scheduled to be paid to the city schools throughout this school year.

Attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union, which represents plaintiffs in the school-quality case before the court, have said they are frustrated that the school year is well under way without the funding ordered by Judge Kaplan.

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