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After riot, school advocates want more money from Hogan, Rawlings-Blake

Schools advocates ask for money after Baltimore rioting.

Dozens of education advocates at two separate events Monday called on Gov. Larry Hogan and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to increase funding for the city's schools, arguing the recent rioting in Baltimore shows the money is desperately needed.

As a global audience has focused on Baltimore's impoverished neighborhoods, education advocates are speaking out about the death of Freddie Gray and the rioting that followed to push for more funding for schools and programs for youth.

"We are not the same Baltimore we were three weeks ago," state Del. Maggie McIntosh, a Baltimore Democrat, at an event outside Barclay Elementary School in North Baltimore. "We are one Baltimore. We can be better because we are listening to our youth."

A group called the Baltimore Education Coalition gathered outside Barclay to call on Hogan to release $68 million in education funding, including about $11 million for Baltimore.

Without the funds, advocates said, city schools could be forced to cut teachers, critical programs and student services.

"Baltimore is not getting sufficient education funding to provide for all of our children's needs," said Bebe Verdery, education reform director at the ACLU of Maryland.

The coalition includes the city's parent-teacher association and the city's charter schools organization, among other groups.

Hogan — who ran on a platform of cutting waste in government, trimming spending and cutting taxes — is evaluating the request, a spokesman said.

Hogan is "fully committed to ensuring every child has access to a quality education," spokesman Douglass V. Mayer said.

He noted that Hogan's budget includes more spending on education than any before it.

"The administration will be carefully evaluating the best use of all taxpayer dollars going forward," Mayer said.

Rawlings-Blake joined the advocates in calling on Hogan to chip in more money.

"I would encourage our governor: Write that check. You can do it today," Rawlings-Blake said. "There's nothing holding you back."

A majority of the City Council and about 100 students and parents, meanwhile, called on Rawlings-Blake to provide $4 million more for after-school programs and community schools.

The faith-based organization Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development said the money is needed "in the wake of the Freddie Gray protests and riots."

"We are going to work hard so that more and more and more — hundreds — of students get an after-school program," said City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke.

Jake Berzoff-Cohen, an organizer for the after-school program Child First Authority, said the advocates want some of the additional $4 million to turn more city schools into community schools, which provide more services for families.

Forty-five community schools receive about $14 million — including $6 million from the city — to provide after-school programs to about 4,000 children. More funding could provide a chance to enhance the programming already available and cut down on the waiting lists, Berzoff-Cohen said.

Amanda Richardson, a mother to three young sons, said her boys are learning karate and burning extra energy at the after-school program at Calvin M. Rodwell Elementary School in Northwest Baltimore. She said she wants to see more children have the same opportunity.

"We need more," said Richardson, who helped organize the rally outside City Hall. "It will give those children that [time] to express themselves."

A spokesman for Rawlings-Blake said the mayor is hoping private donors can help fund the increases advocates want. He noted the mayor has played a key role in advocating for a $1 billion plan for city school construction.

"As we are able to identify more funds and more opportunities, her track record has shown we're willing to invest the money there," spokesman Kevin Harris said. The mayor's not just looking at city funding, but other additional partnerships to help us get to the goal. This is an opportunity for everyone to step up to the plate."

Dr. Leana Wen, the city's health commissioner, will present ideas developed by health, public safety and youth advocacy organizations from Baltimore at a forum in Virginia Tuesday hosted by the federal departments of Justice, Education, Health and Human Services and other agencies.

"The deep disparities and inequalities are evident," Wen says in prepared remarks. "On every metric of poor outcomes — truancy, teen pregnancy, lack of employment — there are big differences, 10 times differences, between different neighborhoods in Baltimore.

"Not surprisingly, these indicators map closely with youth violence and youth shooting rates."

The Baltimore group has laid out goals — including making more fatherhood programs available, limiting alcohol sales and finding alternatives to school suspensions and expulsions — that Wen says the city wants to turn into a strategic plan.

The $1.3 billion city schools budget for next year includes more than $900 million in state aid and about $258 million from city funds. The state is providing more aid per pupil for Baltimore students than any other jurisdiction: nearly $12,000, about twice the state average.

Still, city schools are receiving about $25 million less in state aid than last year. That's due to a $14 million loss in formula funding from Baltimore's recent increase in wealth, and Hogan's reluctance to give out the $11 million for city schools based on where they are located.

The later is calculated under the Geographic Cost of Education Index, or GCEI.

The governor won an election upset last year on a pledge to curb state spending and improve Maryland's economy.

Monday's Baltimore event was the latest in a series around the state meant to pressure Hogan to spend more money on schools.

The $11 million sought by city leaders is a piece of the biggest disagreement yet between Hogan, a Republican, and the General Assembly, which is controlled by Democrats.

Lawmakers set aside about $200 million to fund some top priorities: aid to the 13 most expensive school districts in the state, preventing a 2 percent pay cut to state workers and funding a host of health care-related initiatives.

Hogan was left with the choice to spend the money as the legislature decreed or not spend it at all. The legislative session ended in acrimony with the dispute unresolved.

Hogan announced last week that he would release the money for employee pay but said he hasn't made up his mind on the education funding.

The governor told reporters last week that the unrest after Gray's death had no effect "whatsoever" on his thoughts about spending that cash. He said he has not heard the people of Baltimore clamoring for that education money.

"I can tell you in the week that I spent walking around Baltimore City and probably talking to more than 1,000 people, not a single person mentioned 'GCEI' or funding formulas," Hogan said. "They talked about, 'We need rec centers, and we need jobs.'"

Baltimore descended into rioting last month hours after the funeral of Gray a 25-year-old man who died after suffering a severed spinal cord in police custody.

The state medical examiner ruled Gray's death a homicide, and six officers have been charged in the case. Hogan declared a state of emergency and called in the National Guard to help keep order.

McIntosh, chair of the House Appropriations Committee, said the chaos was evidence that young people in Baltimore need better educational opportunities.

"We need to make sure that the students in Baltimore city schools are prepared for jobs," she said.

Baltimore Teachers Union President Marietta English said city teachers have to buy school supplies — including musical instruments — with their own money.

"We can't ask our teachers to do more with less and then blame them if they don't get the results we want," English said.

The city school system has faced criticism over the $72 million deficit it ran up last year while paying out $46 million in bonuses, overtime pay and accrued leave.

On Monday, city schools CEO Gregory Thornton called 2016 a "challenging budget season." He warned that teachers and programs could be on the chopping block if the state doesn't "release" the money for schools.

Thornton said the money he and others are asking for would not go to more perks for administrators.

"Baltimore has gone through a tumultuous few weeks," Thornton said. "This money is for schools and only schools."

Baltimore Sun reporter Erin Cox contributed to this article.

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