Eleven speakers at a Baltimore schools budget hearing last night supported a proposed $551.2 million spending plan for the coming fiscal year and urged school board members to look elsewhere for even more money.
Robert O. Bonnell, a representative of the Society of Executive Retired Volunteers, pointed out that Baltimore spends about $2,000 less per student than Montgomery County. "We have put hobbles on your feet, put you in a race and asked that you win it," he told the board.
Mr. Bonnell said public schools are producing too many "failures."
"These students are magnificent young people," he said. "We are attempting now to make sow's ears out of silk purses."
Mr. Bonnell and others told the board that they supported the Linowes commission proposal -- an $800 million package of tax-restructuring recommendations that would provide more money for Baltimore and other poor jurisdictions -- and offered to help lobby for its passage.
Other speakers encouraged the board to continue efforts to recruit and retain good teachers, to continue and broaden the system's gifted and talented programs and to lobby the General Assembly for more money.
Several speakers also asked for more spending on library books and school librarians.
"Most elementary and junior highs don't have a full-time librarian, and that is an injustice in the city that reads," said James Gardner, a representative of the Council of PTAs.
The board will vote on the budget proposal Feb. 7.