Baltimore Files Funding Suit Against Maryland Board

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The American Civil Liberties Union charges in a lawsuit filed against the Maryland Board of Education last week that the state has denied public school children in Baltimore an adequate education.

In the class action, filed in a Baltimore circuit court, A.C.L.U. lawyers claimed that "tens of thousands" of the city's schoolchildren are being denied the "thorough and efficient education" required by the state Constitution because of their district's limited financial resources.

The Baltimore district is the poorest in the state. The case renews a longstanding battle with the state's wealthier counties, which invest more local funds in their school systems.

Some suburban jurisdictions fear that they could be hurt if the state loses the case and state funding is shifted to subsidize Baltimore schools.

Baltimore mounted an unsuccessful school-finance challenge in 1983, which was based on the argument that school funding should be distributed to rich and poor districts equally.

The A.C.L.U. lawyers hope that their new strategy, based on the adequacy of local schools rather than on equity between districts, will yield better results.

An Adequacy Argument

"The problems in Baltimore are more extreme than anywhere else in the state," said Alan I. Baron, a lawyer from Washington, D.C., who is assisting the A.C.L.U. in the Baltimore case.

"Children in the city are being failed by the education system in larger numbers," he said.

Test scores in Baltimore public schools are well below the state average, and the county's dropout rate is the highest in the state, according to the state education department.

But State Del. Timothy F. Maloney, who represents Prince George's County, a suburb of Washington, said Baltimore's low achievement is the result of bad management, not limited financial resources.

"The problems with the school system are largely related to leadership," Mr. Maloney said, pointing to the fact that state aid to Baltimore has increased over the past few years."Pouring more money into a failing system is not going to result in adequate education," he added.

Governor-elect Parris N. Glendening, a former Prince George's County executive who narrowly won his race for governor with the support of both Baltimore and the Washington suburbs, said last week that he would keep to his campaign pledge not to raise taxes to increase funding for education programs.

Instead, Mr. Glendening said he would seek to "redirect" state funds over the next few years to increase education revenues across the state.

Vol. 14, Issue 15

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