Members of the D.C. Board of Education, escalating their feud with the District Building over adequacy of the school budget, has invoked the Freedom of Information Act to get detailed information about teacher pensions.
The actions was unprecedented. D.C. budget director Comer S. Coppie, target of the Board of Education letter and the city's administrator of the Freedom of Information Act, said it was the first time one city agency has filed a petition seeking to force release of information by another.
"The information will be provided," Coppie said, adding: "There is no history of (our) withholding information."
Betty Anne Kane, a member of the Board of Education, disclosed the action at a congressional hearing into the school budget yesterday before the House District appropriations subcommittee.
he basic issue is who should pay cost of teacher pensions. For years, the city paid them as part of the general city budget. School officials contend this shortchanges their programs.
In the pending fiscal year 1979 budget, the mayor and City Council earmarked $21.7 million of school funds for pensions.
"We have repeatedly wondered whether this figure is too high," Kane told the congressional hearing, and the Freedom of Information request was a way of getting the answers. She said the Board of Education estimated pension needs at $19.9 million.
What makes the answer critical, Kane said, is that the proposed budget falls $2.7 million short of what the Board of Education decided it needed to pay for special education programs for the hadicapped.
The board requested $234.2 million in operating funds, plus the pension money. The mayor and council cut the total to $217.2.
At one point, Rep. William H. Natcher (D-Ky.) offered to "rearrange the budget" for the school system.
School Superintendent Vincent Reed had another idea. "I would like you to add to the budget," he replied.