Baltimore City Public Schools System (BCPSS) recently released a public letter bracing Baltimore residents for massive cuts in school staff if city and state officials fail to help close an unprecedented $130 million budget deficit.

Baltimore City Schools' new CEO, Dr. Sonja Brookins Santelises

Baltimore City Schools’ new CEO, Dr. Sonja Brookins Santelises

“I must tell you that without additional funding, we are facing layoffs of more than a thousand staff members. Because of the size of the budget gap, we will not be able to focus cost savings in the district office as we have done in past years,” Santelises wrote. “Most of the layoffs will affect staff members in schools.”

Santelises met with Baltimore City’s Annapolis delegation last week to brief them on the budget shortfall, she said. State lawmakers expressed concern but were non-committal. The State of Maryland is currently facing a $544 million shortfall.

In a recent interview with the AFRO, Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford said the city needed to take first steps to address BCPSS’ budget gap before looking to the state for help.

“We need to see what the city’s going to do to address that issue before they come to the state,” Rutherford said.

“There’s a lot of state and local money that doesn’t seem to always reach the classroom, so there’s concern there,” he added. “I think it’s smart on part to call for a full audit.”

Pugh has said in a statement, however, that structural under-funding – not mismanagement – is at the core of BCPSS’ ongoing budget crisis.

“Unfortunately, the Baltimore City Public Schools System is forced to address a structural deficit, and I know Dr. Santelises is using every resource available to her to address this situation,” Pugh said.

Pugh mentioned that the Maryland Commission on Innovation and Excellence is evaluating education financing formulas for Baltimore and each of the state’s school districts. The Commission’s study examines the adequacy of educational financing for the state of Maryland and will make recommendations for legislation and policy to “make adequate and equitable the funding for State public education.”

A preliminary report was due to Gov. Larry Hogan at the end of 2016 and a final report will be issued in December 2017. But BCPSS supporters are concerned that recommendations from this report may not be received in time to impact the current fiscal crisis.

City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young said an immediate resolution of the $130 million budget deficit called for a range of solutions, including additional support from the state as well as budget reductions.

“We will need additional support from Governor Hogan and legislators in Annapolis. There are also less painful steps, namely reforming employee healthcare and pension benefits that the school system can take to close the gap,” Young said. He added, “The budget crisis facing the school system will require an all-hands-on-deck approach.”