Mayor Pugh, Del. McIntosh Announce 3-Year, $180M Partial Fix for City Schools Budget Gap

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Photo via Mayor Catherine Pugh/Twitter

Two after Mayor Catherine Pugh promised to help find a way to fill a $130 million funding gap for Baltimore City Public Schools next year, the mayor and a Baltimore City lawmaker today announced an infusion of cash for the school system through 2020.

Seated beside longtime Baltimore City Del. Maggie McIntosh, D-43rd District, in Annapolis this morning, Mayor Pugh said the city and state have pulled together $180 million to chip away at City Schools’ structural deficit for the next three years. The money will be split roughly down the middle between city and state sources.

The roughly $90 million from Baltimore will come from the city’s rainy day fund and other sources. Mayor Pugh noted that the infusion puts Baltimore’s “maintenance of effort” contribution – a federal requirement for agencies accepting federal grants to at least maintain, not cut, their funding levels from year-to-year – to $10 million above its requirement for education.

Del. Maggie McIntosh said the state’s contribution will come from the Appropriations Committee’s revised version of Gov. Larry Hogan’s budget and a bill that will let change how school systems count their numbers. Specifically, McIntosh said the bill will let school districts like Baltimore City and Garrett County, which have seen drops in enrollment in recent years, average their student populations over three years, rather than account for single-year changes, and allow them to factor in all-day pre-K student populations into total enrollment.

The bill would cover more than $23 million this year, while the state’s new budget, if approved, will cover roughly $8 million.

In a statement, Baltimore Education Coalition co-chair Sharicca Boldon called the announcement “progress,” but said education advocates must avoid becoming complacent with a partial fix.

“Education for Baltimore City students has not yet been made whole,” Boldon said. “We have to secure the necessary funding to ensure that schools have the teaching staff, programs and other resources they need to provide the type of education that all Maryland students deserve.”

The announcement from Pugh and McIntosh arrives in the middle of an abnormally large budget crisis for City Schools. The school system’s CEO, Dr. Sonja Santelises, announced last month that schools are staring down a $130 million budget gap for 2017-18, equal to roughly 10 percent of the overall budget. As a result, the school system is considering layoffs of up to 1,000 staffers, including teachers, as well as cuts to various programs and basic services.

Parents, students and others rally in the Inner Harbor for City Schools education funding on March 4.

In the weeks since, teachers from at least one school called out sick en masse as an act of protest, while students, parents, principals and others have gathered outside City Hall, the State House and in the Inner Harbor to call on Pugh and Hogan to find a fix.

Last week, Pugh went back to Annapolis for what many expected would be an announcement of a solution, but she instead said only that she was asking Hogan and other lawmakers to help her find the money. Today’s announcement is the first with any proposed financial fix for the school system.

Pugh noted that City Schools enrollment has dropped in recent years, but that the number of students in city elementary schools and the overall population of Baltimore have grown. “This is why we find ourselves in the condition that we are – part of the reason – today,” she said, “because the wealth growth in our city is rising, but the poverty gap has not closed.”

Santelises issued a statement thanking Pugh, McIntosh, Senate President Mike Miller and state lawmakers for finding additional funds.

“This plan on the part of the city and state is the result of tireless work by our lawmakers, and I am thankful for their partnership and commitment to our city’s young people. Today’s announcement is also a testament to City Schools’ families, students, staff members, partners, and friends who advocated so strongly for what our young people need and deserve, and whose voices have so clearly been heard,” she said.

McIntosh said she and Pugh have also been in touch with Gov. Hogan and Miller. Both have promised to work with legislators and the city to find additional funding, she said.

Yesterday, Hogan expressed disapproval of the school system’s financial management capabilities at a press conference, according to the Sun.

Shareese DeLeaver-Churchill, a spokeswoman for the governor, said today that Hogan “has repeatedly made clear” that he is working to help fix the budget gap for Baltimore City Public Schools.

“However, any additional assistance from the state must be met with assurances that moving forward, there is a long-term strategy to correct previous fiscal mismanagement,” she said. “We look forward to continuing our very productive conversations with Mayor Pugh and all city leadership.”

Assuming the budget and the additional bill pass both houses of the General Assembly, City Schools still faces a $70 million deficit for next school year.

This story has been updated with comments from City Schools CEO Sonja Santelises, Baltimore Education Coalition co-chair Sharicca Boldon and Gov. Larry Hogan’s office.

Ethan McLeod
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Ethan McLeod

Senior Editor at Baltimore Fishbowl
Ethan has been editing and reporting for Baltimore Fishbowl since fall of 2016. His previous stops include Fox 45, CQ Researcher and Connection Newspapers in Northern Virginia. His freelance writing has been featured in Baltimore City Paper, Leafly, DCist and BmoreArt, among other outlets. He enjoys basketball, humid Mid-Atlantic summers and story tips.
Ethan McLeod
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