200 at city rally protest possible school takeover Leaders also seek release of withheld $30 million


More than 200 educators, parents, students and community members last night denounced the threatened state takeover of Baltimore City schools and demanded that the state release the $30 million in school funding it is withholding.

At a rally of the Save Our Children Coalition at Frederick Douglass High School in West Baltimore, a parade of speakers said residents would have to organize to retain control of the school system and obtain the funding the students deserve.

"The state of Maryland has never funded our schools on an equal basis," former U.S. Rep. Parren J. Mitchell told the crowd. "The pattern as I see it is one in which we've continually become pawns, meaningless pawns, moved at the whim of the state of Maryland."

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke noted that the city's lawsuit against the state for equitable school funding is scheduled to come to trial in November, and he urged the crowd to attend the proceedings and take note of who testifies and what they say.

"Your presence will be felt. I'm absolutely certain of it," he said.

He noted that it was the Governor's Commission on School Funding that found in 1994 that resources should be directed toward schools that had the largest ratio of students living in poverty.

"We're not creating anything new. We're just asking the state to implement its own remedy," the mayor said.

He also demanded that the state release the $30 million it is withholding. "It's absolutely shameful and there's no way you can justify what's going on," Schmoke said.

State Sen. Larry Young, president of the Legislative Black Caucus, called on Baltimoreans to march on Annapolis on Feb. 7 during the next General Assembly session. "We haven't demonstrated in a long time in Annapolis. It hasn't happened in 8 1/2 years. I think it's time," he said.

Sarah Andrews, a student member of the school board, said she attends Western High School, one of the better supplied facilities in the system. But even there, equipment and supplies are in a sorry state.

In her English class, copies of the novel "A Tale of Two Cities" have no covers and are missing pages. "You can't read a book if you don't have all the pages in it," she said.

On her softball team, she added, the equipment is in poor shape: "We have bats that are older than my coaches."

Lilli Covert-Freeman of Friends of Education, a parents' group formed in February, said that if the state takes over city schools, local control and input will be lost.

Pub Date: 9/20/96

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