Baltimore schools must improve

March 31, 2006

The Maryland State Board of Education on Wednesday voted to use the federal No Child Left Behind act to take over 11 failing or poorly performing Baltimore schools.

It's about time, given the schools' history of poor achievement. But the state cannot - again - make the mistake of just throwing money at the problem.

In 2005, per-pupil spending in Baltimore City was $9,242, the fourth highest in the state. It is not a matter of money, but how those available funds are being spent.

The track record isn't good, though state school officials have been pushing for progress for more than 10 years.

Last August, Nancy Grasmick, the state superintendent of schools, told The Herald-Mail she had asked the U.S. District Court to take over the Baltimore system.


The Baltimore system had failed to deliver services to 60 to 80 percent of their special-needs students in the previous school year, Grasmick said. After being chastised, Baltimore officials promised to deliver those services to children over the summer.

But according to Carol Ann Baglin, the state's director of special education, they didn't.

"We went to the sites they gave us. We could find no children and no providers actually doing the work," Baglin said.

As a result, federal officials threatened to withhold half of the $185 million in special-education money Maryland receives every year.

That means that how well Baltimore does with its improvement program will affect other counties' budgets.

Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley accused Grasmick and Gov. Robert Ehrlich of orchestrating the takeover as an election year stunt and using students as a "political football."

If this is football, then this is what's happening:

After a string of failures, the coaching staff is being replaced with people who we hope can turn Baltimore schools into places where students can become academic winners.

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