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Fixing Baltimore's schools

September 01, 2005

Maryland State Department of Education officials won't take over the entire Baltimore City school system, but thanks to a judge's order, MSDE will oversee special-education services there.

Why should you care? Because the federal government has threatened to reduce the special-education money every Maryland county gets unless the problem is solved. And, because even with a limited takeover such as this one, every Maryland taxpayer is going to participate in funding the solution.

On Tuesday, Harry T. Fogle, the former assistant superintendent of the Carroll County school system and leader of the MSDE effort told Gov. Robert Ehrlich that one of his team's first duties would be to meet with their "partners" in the city.

If only that were an accurate description of what Fogle and company are likely to encounter. Baltimore officials have failed to perform adequately in this area for 20 years and have characterized offers of help as an attempt by the state to wrest local control from the city system.

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Truth be told, MSDE officials would like nothing better than to let Baltimore to take care of the problem. But according to State Superintendent Nancy Grasmick, promise after promise has been broken.

The latest came when students who had been denied special-education services during the regular school year were scheduled to receive them this summer.

That was a good idea, except that when MSDE inspectors visited some sites, they found no students. And the teachers who w ere there weren't aware of what the mission was.

Baltimore officials' latest whine is that the state is asking the city system to pay for MSDE's special-education oversight team. Instead, they want the state to pay to clean up their mistakes.

We say: Not if there's any justice and if state officials have any backbone.

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