National education and labor news

Baltimore schools left out in the cold

Baltimore schools have been forced to return millions of dollars in maintenance funds to the state in recent years, leaving repairs to their heating systems unfinished while students shivered at their desks or missed classes during the January cold snap.

The city’s schools had to give back approximately $66 million since 2009 after approved maintenance projects failed to meet state regulations intended to avoid waste. The funds could have paid for dozens of new heating systems at schools that need them.

The city school system has received complaints about a lack of heat at 60 schools so far this winter. The Baltimore Teachers Union urged the city to shut down these schools until officials could sort out the problem.

The heating issues were so widespread that students, parents and teachers held a protest at the Baltimore school system’s headquarters on Jan. 9, brandishing signs reading “Don’t be cold-hearted” and “40 degrees is inhumane.”

The state’s Public School Construction Program raised concerns as recently as 2015 about the large amount of rescinded maintenance funds from Baltimore.

“Projects were funded because they were legitimate and needed,” said the agency’s former director, David Lever. “But then either the project would be so delayed it would meet up against a rule that said that funds have to be encumbered within two years, or the school system would discover they hadn’t asked for enough money.”

Lever blamed a lack of school staffing for delays that led to the funds being returned. 

Baltimore Sun, Jan. 4, Jan. 9

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