Parents, administrators, and community activists made their case to city council last night for additional funds for youth, after-school, and additional educational opportunities.
One parent, Melissa Schober from District 12, gave heartfelt plea to Baltimore City Council for her daughter who experienced a ischemic stroke during an after-school program last week.
“She is at this moment at Kennedy Krugar and we hope she will make a full recovery this is the first time I have left the house or hospital since May 9th," said Schober. "And so I am here tonight asking you as a parent, as a tax payer, you will, you will put the money back in the budget for community schools. And if you don’t I will show up for every meeting, every group, every school and I will bring families with me.”
She went on to say without after-school care provider being present to recognize the early symptoms, her daughter might not be alive. This plea and many others took center stage at Tax Payer’s night hosted by city council.
Current funding for youth, after-school, and school programming is estimated to be $500 million. On top of the $360 million already required by Maryland to go to Baltimore City Public Schools, the school system's budget with state and federal funds is $1.3 billion. Without lumping the school system budget in with youth funding, Baltimore's youth receive roughly $12 million in funds. After-school funding is $6.8 million, $800,000 more than last year's 2017 budget.
Councilman Bill Henry of District Four explained why youth and education funds get stacked together.
“I think the finance department lumps the funding for city schools in with general youth funding, so that, specifically, so that they can look like they aren’t spending three times as much money as they are spending on the police department as they are spending on discretionary youth spending," said Henry in an interview after Wednesday tax payers' meeting.
Together after-school and the youth fund make up one-third of the half a billion dollar police budget. Henry says that according to city council charter rules, council members can only make cuts to the budget, they cannot add new line items.
"Even if we have identified $2.4 million for cuts unless the mayor actively agrees to take that money and reuse it in after-school time cut," said Henry. "We just get a miniscule reduction in property tax and I think the kids of Baltimore deserve more.”
The $2.4 million that Schober and other parents would like to see back in the budget was a negotiation between the mayor and city council during last year's budget. Without that funding six community schools will close and 7000 children could lose their after-school programming.
Henry and his colleagues are in negotiations with the mayor's office to see where to cut to the after-school funding. Meanwhile, the Budget Directors office on Tuesday gave an overview of the third quarterly budget for the 2017 fiscal year and said there will be a $50 million surplus that rolls into the 2018 fiscal year. Councilman Brandon Scott said that the optics looked bad for after-school programming and city schools to be going through cuts, and yet there is a $50 million surplus in the fund balance.
— Dominique Bonessi (@dbonessi) May 16, 2017
Education reporting on WYPR is supported in part by the Sylvan-Laureate Foundation.