The D.C. City Council, apparntly responding to a sudden groundswell of pressure and public protest, took an initial step late yesterday towards restoring part of a proposed $22.3 million reduction in the 1979 operating budget for the city's public schools.
With scores of disgruntled teachers and school board members packed into the Council chambers and other spilling into the hallway outside, the Council in effect, decided to consider on a high priority basis at least $4.3 million more than the $234.6 million recommended by its education committee.
Such a reinstatement would bring the budget up to the $238.9 billion proposed by Mayor Walter E. Washington. But school officials, board members and union representatives, who had organized several demonstrations yesterday and lobbied Council members for the past several days, said afterwards that the $4.3 million was not enough.
What the school officials want is the full $255.8 million recommended by the school board. "I'm not satisfied with it (the Council's action yesterday). I'll be satisfied with what we submitted," said School Supt. Vincent E. Reed.
"It's progress from the crap they first came up with," said William Simons, president of the Washington Teacher's Union. "But we're still not satisfied."
If the council's education committee reduction is made, school officials have warned, 235 teaching positions may have to be eliminated and the entire adult education program wiped out.
Yesterday's vote did not in itself alter the committee's recommendation or set the $233 million level as the Council's official action. Rather, it placed the $238 million figure on the Council's agenda as an appeal item - a first level alternative to be considered when the Council takes later action on the budget.
Several Council members said afterwards that the practical effect of such a move was to open the parliamentary door for making it more likely that at least $238 million in funding would be approved.
At the same time, the Council strongly voted down a proposal by Douglas E. Moore (D-at large) to make the $255 million level, the amount requested by the board, the appeal item. The determination of yesterday's protest organizers to get that amount, however, left open the possibility that more than $238 million could be approved.
Yesterday's action came as the Council took its first official look at what will by mid-November become the Council's version of a $1.3 billion operating budget proposed by the mayor for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, 1978.
There was more public response yesterday that in any of the other budget deliberation, which for the past three weeks have occupied most of the Council members' time.
Public protest, peppered with practical politicking, was the order of the day on the fifth floor of the District Building from early in the morning, when students marched and shouted in the hall outside the chamber, to the early evening, when a few Vietnam veterans, fearing they would lose their educational opportunities, grilled Mayor Washington as he left the building for thday.
Barabara Lett Simmons, an at-large school board member who is campaigning for re-election next month, organized many of the protesters who participated in the city's adult education programs.
At one point during the mornig session before the Council considered the education committee's report, protesters cheered when Mayor Washington entered the hall on his way to his office and told the gathering he supported them.
"I support you," he told one protester who asked him whether he was in favor of increased funds for the schools.
"They (the Council) are in there trying to cut my budget," the mayor said.
Ironically, the Council's sudden move yesterday toward more school spending was, in some respects, a reversal of its own earlier announced intention to reduce $26.3 million from the mayor's budget.
Last month the Council voted overwhelmingly to adopt budget-cutting goals for each committee that would reflect such a reduction. It was in an effort to meet that goal - or "mark" - that Education Committee Chairman William R. Spaulding (D-five) made the $4.3 million cut.
In fact, it was committee report itself that made the suggestion that the Council re-examine its "fiscal plan" and commitments to school spending "by at least setting the funding level at $238 million" as recommended by the mayor.
Meanwhile yesterday, members of the Council's finance and revenue committee said they face serious problems in bringing the majors proposed 1.3 billion budget in balance. These problems have been excerbated by proposals by the Council to grant residents property tax relief and pay for salary increases for all city employees that the Council approved last month.
Finance committee chairman Marion Barry (D-at large), said some of the mayor's revenue projections are unrealistic because they depend on legislation that has not been passed yet.
"The mayor expects the new parking enforcement program will generate about $20 million, but the City Council has not even passed legislation to set the program up," Barry said. "The bill is still in committee and there are problems with it."
Barry said that the mayor's projection that the city will receive about $317 million more in federal payments in unrealistic as well because the Congress has not passed legislation that would give the city more than the $300 million currently authorized.