- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 16, 2006

BALTIMORE — Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. yesterday moved to oust members of the city school board because they lowered the failing grade on report cards for students in the troubled schools, which have become a key campaign issue in the governor’s race.

“Given the troubling performance of the Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners and the continued failure of the school system, those board members eligible for removal must be replaced as quickly as possible,” Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican, said in a letter to Edward L. Root, chairman of the Maryland State Board of Education.

“With each passing day, I lose confidence in the management of the school system,” said Mr. Ehrlich, who is seeking re-election this fall.

Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley, Democratic candidate for governor, responded by accusing Mr. Ehrlich of playing politics with city schools.

“This is just another political stunt at the expense of Baltimore’s students,” said O’Malley spokesman Steve Kearney. “If he’s going to do anything, the governor should fire his own staff and stop his hypocritical attack on the Baltimore city schools.”

In calling for new school board members, Mr. Ehrlich cited the large number of failing schools, low attendance rates, high dropout rate and the school board’s decision in June to lower the failing grade from 70 to 60. The grade scale goes to 100.

The school system raised the failing grade from 60 to 70 in 1999.

The change, which the board approved in a 6-1 vote, was not widely publicized until this week. It brings the grading scale for city schools in line with most other Maryland jurisdictions.

Baltimore schools emerged as a major campaign issue in part when Mr. Ehrlich began airing a TV ad critical of high schools that continue to fail under Mr. O’Malley, who does not have direct control of the city’s school system.

The governor and the mayor jointly appoint the nine-member school board, in accordance with a 1997 agreement under which the state gives Baltimore schools hundreds of millions of dollars in extra funding.

Currently, five new members could be appointed to the board.

Mr. Kearney said the change to the grade scale was recommended by a committee that included one of Mr. Ehrlich’s top education officials and was passed by a school board he helped appoint.

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