$1.1 billion sought for education


Baltimore schools Chief Executive Officer Bonnie S. Copeland is proposing a $1.1 billion budget for the coming school year that includes $22 million to aid 50 troubled schools and $42 million to cover salary increases for teachers and other personnel.

The school system expects to see a 7 percent, or $78 million, increase in revenue over this school year. About $62 million of that is state money from the so-called Thornton legislation, which strives to equalize funding for Maryland's 24 school systems.

The start of the new school year on July 1 also will mark the first time in seven years that the system has operated without a deficit. As a result, Copeland said, "We are able to build in many more resources to support teaching and learning."

Copeland is scheduled to present her budget proposal to the school board tonight.

Among the highlights:

$22.2 million to give extra resources to the 50 lowest-performing elementary and middle schools in the city, including more teachers to reduce class sizes, mentors for new teachers and math coaches at 30 elementary schools.

$42 million for salary increases, including $27 million to give teachers and paraprofessionals a 5 percent raise, as stipulated in an agreement reached last summer between the school board and the Baltimore Teachers Union. Copeland said nearly all 11,000 school system employees would get a raise.

$18 million to cover the increasing cost of health benefits.

$8.4 million for new textbooks, including language arts and math books in middle schools and math books in elementary schools. The language arts textbook in middle schools would be used largely in place of the controversial Studio Course curriculum that was used this school year.

The proposal also includes $6.6 million to cover rising energy costs, and $1.3 million to pay the salaries of nine state managers sent by a federal judge to oversee departments affecting special education.

It earmarks $2.8 million to handle the logistics of closing five school buildings this summer and moving students and programs elsewhere, as well as $1.5 million to expand prekindergarten and $562,000 to fund boys and girls track and basketball teams for sixth- through eighth-graders.

The proposal assumes that the school system's enrollment will continue to decline next year, budgeting for 83,214 students, down from 85,000 enrolled this year and 110,000 a decade ago.

Two-thirds of the school system's budget comes from the state. Another 19 percent comes from the city, while 11 percent comes from the federal government and 3 percent comes from other sources. Seventy percent of the budget is spent on salaries and benefits.

The school system has held four public hearings in the past few months to listen to the community's priorities for the budget.

Officials distributed a survey, to which about 100 people responded, asking residents about their budget priorities. The most votes were for cleaner schools, more summer and after-school programs, more programs to reward students' positive behavior and more social workers.

As a result, officials say, they have included an extra $1 million in the budget to hire more cleaning staff. They also found more money for summer school and social workers. The budget contains $10.5 million for summer programs, up from $8.2 million proposed last month.

The proposal says the system is reorganizing its human resources department in attempt to do a better job recruiting "highly qualified" teachers. The federal No Child Left Behind Act requires all classroom teachers to be certified with subject-area expertise by next school year; this year, only 42 percent of city teachers meet that criterion.

The school board will hold a hearing on the budget proposal at 6 p.m. March 22. It is scheduled to vote on the budget April 11. The budget will then be sent to Mayor Martin O'Malley and the City Council for final approval.


The budget proposal is posted online at baltimorecityschools.org. The school system is accepting comment on the proposal at budget@bcps.k12.md.us.

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