Baltimore education officials announced last night they are turning down the governor's final offer of state aid for city schools and heading to court next week.
After meeting with lawyers for more than three hours, the school board concluded the governor's latest spending proposal was not enough to hasten much-needed classroom reforms.
"It's been a struggle," said board President J. Tyson Tildon, adding that the board had hoped there would be "a creative effort" to avoid a court battle over the amount of state education aid.
Gov. Parris N. Glendening turned up the pressure on negotiations Wednesday by making a final offer to give Baltimore $30 million of the $49 million in extra aid it is seeking for the coming school year and promising to do all he could to provide $49 million the following year. He said if it was rejected, the state would go to court.
School officials and the American Civil Liberties Union said the amount was not significantly different from what the state had previously offered and falls far short of what is needed for reforms.
"Nothing of substance was added," said Susan Goering, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Baltimore. "We're getting ready for trial."
Lawyers for the city schools and state are set to square off beginning Monday before Baltimore Circuit Judge Joseph H. H. Kaplan. The school district filed an 80-page petition 10 days ago to reopen the 1996 settlement of an earlier ACLU lawsuit over the funding for Baltimore's cash-strapped schools. That settlement produced a landmark partnership in which the city gave up some control of its schools in exchange for $254 million over five years in new state aid.
The settlement allows the city to seek more state aid this year. School officials and the governor's office differ over whether the state has made a good-faith effort to provide money for their reforms.