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More cash for Baltimore?

August 27, 2004

In March, when the Baltimore school system was looking for a $42 million loan to bail it out of some poor financial decisions, we said that Maryland ought to put some tough conditions on any loan.

We also said that state education officials, who should have been paying closer attention to Baltimore's descent into a flood of red ink, needed a shake-up of their own.

They may get it sooner than they anticipated. Last week, Circuit Judge Joseph H.H. Kaplan issued a 70-page ruling, which said the state should increase its contribution to the Baltimore schools by $225 million in the next four years.

Sound familiar? It is. In 1996, then Gov. Parris Glendening settled Baltimore's lawsuit against the state for a quarter of a billion dollars. Then Sen. Barbara Hoffman, D-Baltimore, praised the idea because there would be "a change of a management and a new direction ..."

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We don't begrudge the children of Baltimore a decent education, but we have serious doubts about the ability of that city's school system to use additional funds to provide it for them. And, if Sen. Hoffman was correct about there being a change of management and a new direction, well, that really didn't work out, now did it?

State Schools Superintendent Nancy Grasmick, a holdover from the Glendening administration, would like the Baltimore school system put under a trustee arrangement.

A trustee? As in someone who oversees the system? If Baltimore needs that, then why does Maryland have a state Department of Education?

If Grasmick wants to farm this duty out to someone else, can we assume that she will come up with the money by trimming back her own staff?

We doubt it. But if Gov. Robert Ehrlich, who once considered Grasmick as a running mate, buys this baloney, he will forfeit his reputation as a fiscal conservative.

As we said in March, if Baltimore gets any more state money, it should only be under a strict agreement that both city and state education officials will be responsible for ensuring that the new funds are not wasted.

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