Education advocates angry, coming to Annapolis

Barely a week after Gov. Martin O'Malley unveiled his 2012 budget, Baltimore education groups have begun rallying against proposed decreases in school aid -- planning bus trips and calling on legislators to overturn the cuts.

As we reported this morning, Baltimore stands to lose about $15 million in state K-12 money, and Prince George's County about $21 million, compared with what they got last year. Other areas would receive more. Baltimore County would be up by about $6 million and Montgomery by about $33 million.

Legislative analysts say some counties would see increases over last year's aid levels because they've lost proportionally more wealth in the housing market collapse while gaining more students. Funding is determined by a per-pupil equation. But Baltimore and all 23 counties would receive less than state education law requires if the legislature approves O'Malley's spending plan.

Baltimore's robust and outspoken education advocate community is already gearing up. Past NAACP Baltimore chapter president Marvin "Doc" Cheatham just sent out a release saying he'd be a bus captain for the planned Feb. 28 education rally in Annapolis.

"Progress is being made in the Baltimore City Public School System, and now is not the time to go in the opposite direction," Cheatham wrote in a statement this afternoon.

The Baltimore Education Coalition, a partnership of more than two dozen schools, religious institutions and other organizations, expects hundreds of supporters to come to Annapolis for the end-of-month rally. Last year, the group brought more than 600 city residents to oppose education funding cuts.

Also planning to make the trip: BUILD. The Rev. Andrew Foster Connors, clergy co-chair of Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development, told The Sun's Erica Green yesterday that the public "can stomach" tax increases if it means saving education funding.

"What we can't stomach right now is breaking that promise to our kids," said Connors, pastor of Brown Memorial Park Avenue Presbyterian Church.

In years past, O'Malley has been able to preserve education aid by using federal stimulus dollars. That money has dried up. If approved, O'Malley's 2012 budget would lop about $94 million in formula-driven increases, leaving K-12 with about $5.7 billion for the next fiscal year.

The Sun's Liz Bowie also recently noted another education change in O'Malley's budget: He proposed eliminating a required high school American government test. That would trim about $2 million from the state's $14.6 billion operating budget.

Said Baltimore schools CEO Andrés Alonso: "I don't understand it. Why fiddle with something like that? … So what does it signal, that government is suddenly less relevant than the other subjects? Why government and not the other tests?"

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