Governor Larry Hogan criticized the Baltimore school system for its money management Thursday and suggested that additional financial oversight might be part of any deal to send more state aid to the city.
According to The Baltimore Sun,
Speaking with a hoarse voice at a wide-ranging news conference in Annapolis, Hogan said he recently had a “good meeting” with Mayor Catherine Pugh and expected to sit down with her again to discuss the school system’s $130 million budget shortfall.
However, the governor expressed dissatisfaction with the Baltimore school board — which he helps appoint — saying it kept “spending as if they thought they were going to get more money.”
In response to a question, Hogan said creating a financial control board could be on the table.
“It will be part of the conversation,” Hogan said. “So far we have had very preliminary discussions.”
While the governor did not elaborate, a financial control board is generally understood to be a panel that oversees a government authority, such as a school board, and has veto power over its financial decisions.
Congress imposed such a board on the troubled District of Columbia government in 1995 as part of the price for a financial bailout. The board kept watch over the District’s finances for six years. Two decades earlier, a similar board was created as part of a rescue plan for New York City.
Baltimore officials have pressed the Republican governor and members of the General Assembly to help close the schools’ budget gap, which officials say could lead to more than 1,000 layoffs and larger class sizes.
Hogan expressed a willingness to work with the city but gave no indication that a resolution was near. “It’s certainly not going to be a blank checkbook,” he said.
The governor’s comments came as Pugh and Baltimore schools CEO Sonja Santelises prepared to meet with city legislators in Annapolis on Friday morning. Del. Curt Anderson, a Democrat who chairs the city House delegation, said the officials are expected to lay out their plan to solve the school system’s shortfall and explain what they hope the state will do to help.
Pugh wouldn’t reveal details of what she plans to discuss, but said it would concern funding for city schools.
“We will provide assistance to the school system,” the Democratic mayor said.
She said the governor’s comments likely stem from their shared belief that there needs to be strict “fiduciary responsibility” of school system spending. The mayor said she believes the system needs to re-examine its structural costs, including funding for a large network of public charter schools.
During a school board meeting last week, Santelises — who has headed the school system since July 1 —dismissed any suggestion the district has mismanaged its money.
“Regardless of whatever narratives the community hears, this is not an issue of mismanagement. This is not an issue of lost money,” she said.
Anderson said the system’s financial woes were the result of events beyond its control. He rejected the notion of a control board.
“I don’t think we’re interested in reimposing any state controls over a local jurisdiction,” he said.
Previous Coverage on Conduit Street: Baltimore City Schools CEO Warns of Massive Layoffs
Article from The Baltimore Sun