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Per-pupil funding sees bump in budget passed by Baltimore city school board

City school board unanimously passed a $1.2 billion budget Tuesday night with a bump in per-pupil funding

The Baltimore city school board unanimously passed a $1.2 billion budget Tuesday night with a bump in per-pupil funding from money promised by the state and city, school officials said.

The budget funds $5,678 per pupil at traditional schools and $9,272 per pupil at charters, an increase of $109 and $131, respectively, from a draft budget presented two weeks ago. More than $10 million arrived from the state and city to increase the amounts, school officials said.

Compared to last fiscal year, traditional schools will see an increase of $342 per pupil; charters will see a decrease, $115.

Schools officials said they're hopeful another $3.6 million will arrive from the state and city. They wrote a contingency into the budget to further raise per-pupil funding if that money arrives.

Nicole Harris-Crest, executive director of the Maryland Alliance of Public Charter Schools, said cuts to charters threaten students' futures.

"While administrative costs including salaries and benefits are skyrocketing at North Avenue, Baltimore City Charters schools are facing budget cuts that will have a direct impact on our classrooms and bring per pupil funding to 2011 levels," she said in a statement.

Charter schools receive more cash per pupil because they don't receive some services from the central office that traditional schools do. More than a dozen charter schools are suing the district for failing to follow the state-mandated funding formula that could provide more money.

The budget passed Tuesday calls for another round of cuts to central office staff, including school police officers. But it boosts funding for literacy and math initiatives.

The budget cuts about 20 positions from school police. Before the vote, Sgt. Clyde Boatwright, president of the school police union, urged the board to reconsider the cuts.

"It's problematic that the needs of our children and the safety of our children is not put paramount to the budget cuts," he said. "You can't learn if you're not safe."

In a year of flat revenue and rising expenses, the budget makes a priority of students, Thornton said.

"When you don't have the luxury of additional revenue," he said, "you do the best with what you have."

The budget now awaits a vote from the City Council.

Also Tuesday, the school board announced Thornton will step down Friday; a former administrator, Sonja Santelises, will take over in July.

tprudente@baltsun.com

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