By Deborah Bailey, Special to the AFRO

The battle for Baltimore City Public Schools System (BCPSS) is expected to heat up as the 2018-2019 FY budgeting process enters its final phase.  Sonja Santelises, City Schools CEO, will present the estimated 1.3 billion operating budget to the School Board April 24, followed by a series of city-wide information meetings about next year’s budget starting April 25.

Parents and education advocates have increasingly expressed concern over a lack of systematic parent and community involvement in procedural and policy-making processes of the City’s public schools this year.

Despite concerns expressed by parent and community advocates, the BCPSS board voted to change the city’s fair student funding formula earlier this year. The Board voted to change dollar allocations to traditional public schools based on poverty levels rather than standardized test-scores.

School officials said the school funding formula was revised to allot more money to high-poverty schools, but education advocates expressed concern that changes were being pushed through without the community having a voice in how the funding would be used.

“Why not wait until we get more input from parents on how to best allocate those new resources?” said Marietta English, Baltimore Teachers Union President.

“Why not take more time to look at all of the revenues that contribute to what could, and should, be a well-rounded Fair Student Funding Model,” English asked school board members.

For months Khalilah Harris, a BCPSS parent, community advocate and founding co-chair of the Coalition of Black Leaders in Education, has also expressed concern over BPCSS’ lack of process to involve parents and community advocates.

“The Coalition of Black Leaders in Education will be monitoring Baltimore City School System’s community engagement process for building a budget that supports high levels of family and community engagement and expands access to opportunity by addressing racial inequity,” Harris said regarding the group’s involvement in this year’s budget process.

School officials have conceded that until the Kirwan Commission changes the state funding formula for public schools, Baltimore City Schools still are not operating with enough money.  The State appointed Kirwan Commission provided preliminary guidance for critical changes needed in K-12 education to make Maryland’s education system nationally competitive earlier this year.

The Commission deferred specific fiscal recommendations until late 2018. Public policy analysts have offered that the Commission sought to ensure their fiscal recommendations were not politicized in the 2018 state election cycle. The Kirwan Commission is expected to recommend substantive expansion of the current state K-12 education funding formula. Some estimates have indicated that Maryland needs to spend at least $2.9 billion more each year on K-12 education for all students to have access to a high-quality education, with much of that figure coming from the State.

The upcoming BCPSS community-budget meetings will include an overview of how BCPSS plans to allocate funding for student transportation, special education services, administrative services and other district-wide expenses.

BCPSS School Board will vote on the final 2018-2019 budget at its May 8 meeting. Community budget meeting dates/locations are as follows:

April 25
Bentalou Recreation Center
222 N. Bentalou Street
Baltimore 21223

April 26
The Y in Waverly
900 E. 33rd Street
Baltimore 21218

April 30
Highlandtown Elementary/Middle School #237
231 S. Eaton Street
Baltimore 21224

May 1
Board Forum at City Schools’ District Office
200 E. North Avenue
Baltimore 21202

May 2
Liberty Recreation Center
3901 Maine Avenue
Baltimore 21207

May 3
Arundel Elementary/Middle School
2400 Round Road
Baltimore 21225