City schools budget: not out of the woods
It sounds like good news that the governor's proposed cuts to schools -- namely, Baltimore and Prince George's -- are on hold awaiting a federal economic stimulus package. But the state's two poorest school districts aren't out of the woods yet.
If the changes that Gov. O'Malley has proposed to school funding become law, Dr. Alonso said today, the city schools would be crippled for years to come. And even without that, if state education funding remains flat as the system's enrollment and labor costs increase, the city schools would have to cut tens of millions of dollars a year every year.
The federal stimulus money might not help much: If it's earmarked as Title 1 and IDEA funds, it can only be used for limited purposes. It can't help cover salaries.
"The present formula is gonna force me to be at the back of the line every year with a tin cup," Alonso told the state school board this afternoon.
Alonso was at the state board meeting to give an annual update on the system. In a 40-slide Powerpoint, one of the statistics that stood out most to me was one showing that still only 51 percent of city teachers are designated "highly qualified." As the system works to increase that number, it's going to have to pay teachers more.
Alonso said the Baltimore Teachers Union is willing to work with him and forego a raise this year, but he can't keep asking teachers to do that. If the city schools can't pay its teachers a decent wage, he said, they'll never be able to compete with suburban jurisdictions that can go to their county executives for money. In Baltimore, City Hall's contribution to the schools has been flat for a decade.
So, Alonso argues, don't be fooled. What will be the system's deficit three years down the line? And why should poor jurisdictions get stimulus money to break even when everyone else gets it as something to build on?