© 2023 WYPR
WYPR 88.1 FM Baltimore WYPF 88.1 FM Frederick WYPO 106.9 FM Ocean City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

City officials want Hogan to show them the money for schools

John Lee

Last week Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh said she would update plans to shrink the city school’s $130 million budget shortfall. Monday, she and city officials unveiled that plan.

It was a plea for Governor Larry Hogan to step up and help the city.

Pugh said at a news conference steps away from the gates to the Governor’s mansion that Hogan has yet to say what his commitment to the city schools will be. Pugh did not offer a dollar figure she would like from the state, saying the school system is negotiating with the governor's office.

She said school leaders have “asked us to…step back and wait until the negotiations are completed and then to reveal the total amount.”

City officials say they want the Governor to commit to a three-year fix. During that time, a commission that is studying school funding statewide could finish its job and get a new funding plan in place. 

Delegate Maggie McIntosh, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said the legislature is limited in what it can do without the Governor.

"We could find money," McIntosh said.  "We could cut money from various different agencies in ways and we could fence it off. And you know how that fenced off money goes. Nowhere."

That’s because it’s the Governor who controls the spending. 

She said lawmakers must hear from the Governor in three weeks. 

City Schools CEO Sonja Santelises said the sooner the better. 

Santelises said it would be fiscally irresponsible for her not to prepare for the worst. That’s the possibility of laying off more than one thousand people, including teachers, if the budget shortfall isn’t addressed. 

She said she can’t expect teachers to wait indefinitely to start looking for new jobs, even though for now most are staying put.

"Even though this number is daunting. Even though this is personally challenging for so many of them, their dedication to their young people, to their community has them holding on," Santelises said. "Not everybody has started leaving in droves."

BeBe Verdery, with the ACLU of Maryland, said she believes there is a renewed commitment by the city, the state and school system working together to close the budget shortfall. But she said what’s missing are the numbers; how much the Governor and the city are willing to pony up.

“I think the city has an idea of what they want to put on the table,” she said. “And they don’t want to say what that is without knowing what the governor is willing to put on the table. And that is sort of how negotiations work.”

The governor’s office failed to return requests for comment.

While the mayor was in Annapolis, several dozen city school principals gathered outside City Hall to call for solutions to the budget problem.

ChrisTurk, the principal of George Washington Elementary in Pigtown, said he is encouraged by Mayor Pugh’s push to close the budget shortfall.

“We’re excited that we have a mayor that has campaigned and committed in increasing funding in city schools and who is collaborating and working hard without state legislators,” he said.

Roland Park Elementary/Middle School Principal Nicholas D’Ambrosio said his school is having to fundraise, and not for extra frills.

“Nothing in addition to or nothing innovative,” D’Ambrosio said. “Just the basics because we don’t have the funding to do the basics.”

Principals are trying to figure out how much they have to cut from their budgets to plug the $130 million dollar hole.

Officials say the city is in this bind in part because the schools have been shortchanged by the state for years. 

About 70 percent of the city school budget comes from the state. 

WYPR's Morning Edition news anchor Ashley Sterner serves up the latest Maryland news and weather every weekday morning, delightfully interspersed with the occasional snarky comment.