Last week, Baltimore City Public Schools President & CEO Dr. Sonja Santelises announced that unless additional funding is secured for next year’s school budget, Baltimore schools are facing layoffs of more than 1,000 teachers and faculty. Cuts to arts and enrichment programs are likely to come as well, as the system tries to to close a $130 million budget gap. Rising school costs and declining enrollment are not new challenges to city schools, but this year’s shortfall is the largest the district has faced in a long time.
The Baltimore Teachers Union called the layoffs “unacceptable” and Dr. Santelises herself concedes that her plan to balance the budget, will drastically change how the school system operates.
So, how did we get here? The State of Maryland is facing its own budget crisis that may leave many programs cut or underfunded, including Baltimore City Public schools, which at the moment, are slated to receive $42 million less from the state during the next fiscal year which begins on July 1. When casino gambling was approved in Maryland several years ago, proponents promised huge windfalls for the Maryland Education Trust Fund. Since 2010, when the first Maryland casinos opened, about $1.7 billion dollars has been added to the fund from casino revenues. But the law allowing gambling didn’t require the state to actually spend more on education. In fact, Baltimore City has received less funding from the state for education than it did before the casinos opened. Dr. Sonja Santelises joins Tom in studio to talk about the tough choices she is facing, as she seeks to right the ship while improving the outcomes for the roughly 82,000 students in her charge.