Baltimore’s New Mayor Proposes $288 Million in Education Spending to Save City’s Schools
Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh made a significant announcement regarding the city’s struggling public school system on Wednesday. In her 2018 budget, she outlined a $22.4 million increase in aid to schools, bringing the total education spending to $287.8 million, a significant jump from the previous year’s $265.4 million.
This increase in funding is a result of an agreement between city and state lawmakers to address the $130 million budget shortfall that Baltimore City Public Schools is facing. The agreement includes an additional $60 million in funding for the schools over the next three years.
Gov. Larry Hogan has fulfilled his part of the agreement by releasing a supplemental budget that provides an additional $23.7 million in state funding to Baltimore schools, with the condition of implementing fiscal accountability measures.
While the increase in funding does not fully cover the projected budget gap, Baltimore Schools CEO Sonja Santelises expressed gratitude to Hogan for agreeing to provide additional aid. She stated that the funding included in the governor’s budget is a vital part of the plan to close the district’s anticipated budget gap for the current year.
In addition to the education funding increase, Mayor Pugh’s budget shifts priorities by allocating more money towards education than law enforcement. She has reallocated $5.5 million from the Police Department to Baltimore City Public Schools, addressing the concerns of advocates and local lawmakers who argue that the city spends more on police than on children.
Baltimore Budget Director Andrew Kleine described this budget as a "historic moment", highlighting that Pugh has designated a total of $512.7 million for schools, education and arts grants, youth recreation, and other programs, with education receiving a larger share than law enforcement.
However, it should be noted that the Police Department’s budget has also increased. Pugh has allocated $497 million, including $10 million for implementing reforms following the 2015 death of Freddie Gray in police custody.
Baltimore City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young has expressed intentions to go even further by diverting an additional $10 million from the police budget to education. The council will ultimately decide whether to approve Pugh’s budget.
Young’s spokesman, Lester Davis, clarified that the cuts would target areas of excess spending within the police budget, rather than compromising necessary resources. He also highlighted instances of police misconduct that resulted in a federal indictment and a mayor’s audit.
However, not everyone is in favor of reducing police budgets in favor of education spending. Some, like Nathan Willner, president of the Cheswolde Neighborhood Association, argue that crime in the city has reached crisis levels and that the safety of children should be the top priority.