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Schaefer on the Baltimore Schools

It was only a matter of time, given his history as Baltimore mayor and his gift of gab, before Comptroller William Donald Schaefer weighed in on the fate of 11 low-performing Baltimore schools.

At the Board of Public Works meeting this morning, both Schafer and Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. voiced strong support for a state intervention plan that has been blocked by the legislature.

Schaefer (D), also a former governor, acknowledged that city schools had been subpar for quite some time. But he said "you can't do the same old stuff you've been doing year after year."

Schaefer also voiced support for State Superintendent of Schools Nancy Grasmick, whom Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, a Democratic gubernatorial hopeful, has accused of pulling an "election-year stunt" at Ehrlich's behest. It was Grasmick who recommended the state intervention last week.

Ehrlich said he has been talking with Democratic senators in hopes of peeling off votes when lawmakers try to override his promised veto of the bill.

"I was not elected to bless the status quo," the Republican governor said. "The era of sentencing these kids to a non-future ..... is hereby over."

Ehrlich also cited a letter sent yesterday to Grasmick by the U.S. Department of Education that said $171 million in federal funding of Maryland schools could be in "potential jeopardy" as a result of the legislature's actions. The state's attorney general's office has reached the opposite conclusion.

State Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp, the third member of the board, meanwhile, offered measured support for the schools, noting that while middle schools and high schools are struggling in Baltimore, scores are up in elementary schools. Kopp (D) also suggested that school officials felt blindsided by Grasmick's action.

"The problem is people feel things are being done to them, not with them," Kopp said.

John Wagner

By Phyllis Jordan  |  April 5, 2006; 4:26 PM ET
Categories:  General Assembly , Governor  
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