Baltimore Schools Plan Deep Cuts To Balance Budget; More Money Shifted To Students

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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A smaller central office that spends more money on students. That’s the plan from Baltimore school leaders to save its cash-strapped budget. The plan means more deep cuts at the district’s headquarters.

Gigi Barnett has the details.

City school leaders want to spend the bulk of their cash in the classroom on each student. The district unveiled the plan this week. They’re going to shift more money to schools, even though the school system’s bottom line is staying the same.

“We’re going to give more of that slice of the pie to our schools to make sure that they can maintain the staff and programs,” said Michael Frist. “That’s our first priority.”

Frist is the district’s chief financial officer and in charge of tracking the money. Last year, the district spent about $5,000 on each student but next year, Frist says it will add about $155 more — an overall 4.3 percent boost.

Some parents are telling principals to “spend it wisely.”

“I don’t know that that boost is going to let her do everything she wants to do. They are still going to have to make very conscientious decisions,” said parent Elizabeth Reichelt.

With more money headed directly to the classroom, cuts must come from somewhere—most likely the central office.

“We just have to continue to do more with less and we just still think that’s there’s room there to become more efficient,” Frist said.

That efficiency could help because the school district is staring at a $35 million budget shortfall for next school year and the state has already told state leaders not to expect more because it has money problems of its own. It’s in the red by about a billion dollars.

“We all have to live within our means. I have to live within my means, you have to live within your means and the school system has to do the same,” Frist said.

Altogether, the district plans to spend about $32 million more on students next year.

Note: A previous version of this story reported a $500 boost, an 11 percent increase, for each student.

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