D.C. School Board President Minnie S. Woodson said yesterday that Mayor Marion Barry's proposed $10 million reduction in current school spending could lead to overcroweded class rooms in city schools -- something the board had eliminated this year, she said, for the first time since 1928.
Appearing at the opening of City Council hearings on Barry's proposed $1.5 billion financial package for the next fiscal year, Woodson and several other board members, along with a few emotionally charged council members, called the Barry budget a step backward in public education.
Woodson said it would lead not only to crowded schools, but also to inadequate equipment. "we have had croweded classrooms, crowded school buildings and sparse equipment, and that has been the legacy of the black child in this city for 51 years," she said.
City Council member Hilda Mason (Statehood-At-Large), who like Barry used to be on the school board, questioned the mayor's commitment to minorities, who make up about 99 percent of the students in the city's public schools.
Black people have always had a difficult time getting an education in America, Mason, who is black, asserted "It's interesting that now when the city's being run by a majority of black people and we have a lot of minority people in the city -- including blacks, including Spanish, chinese and other people -- the question is, do we want to educate our people."
Neither Woodson, School Superintendent Vincent E. Reed nor any of the board members present made specific projections of what reductions would have to be made if the mayor's school budget proposal is adopted. those would be announced later, Reed said.
Barry recommended $237 million for schools in the fiscal year beginning next Oct. 1. That is $10 million below the $247 million budgeted for the current fiscal year. The school board had asked for $279 million.
The mayor made his recommendation on the basis of declining school enrollment, saying that the school system could not continue to receive increased funding at a time when it weas serving fewer students.
At yesterday's hearing, however, several board members noted that population in the city also was decreasing and yet the Barry budget represented an increase of 8.1 percent over the previous year.
Woodson said 88 percent of the board's funds are spent on staff salaries. Even though the number of teachers dropped from 7,083 in 1975 to 6,439 in 1979, she said, inflation droveup the school payroll from $94.2 million in 1975 to $119.9 million this year.
Board member Frank Shaffer-Corona said the city's bilingual education program was "excellent" but "insufficient." The best bilingual school is located outside the Hispanic community, he said
Council Chairman Arrington Dixon said the council would like to give the board as big a budget as possible, but that additional sources of money would have to found to do it.