D.C. City Council members and D.C. school board members, concerned that the city Public Works Department has failed to provide adequate building repairs in recent years, discussed during a budget hearing last night whether the school system should be given the authority to make its own repairs.
About 200 persons crowded the council chamber to hear several council members support giving the schools "full authority" to make repairs, but school board members and Superintendent Floretta D. McKenzie resisted in testimony before the council's Education Committee.
If the schools were given authority to oversee repairs, about $60 million would be added to the school system's 1987 budget explicitly for construction projects. However, school board President R. David Hall said, "We don't want a massive infusion of money. Don't dump it all in . . . . We don't want to try to swallow more than we're ready for." Hall said that the schools need an increase in funding for capital projects, but "we lack the staff to adequately monitor all the repairs that are needed."
Council member Nadine Winter (D-Ward 6), who yesterday afternoon proposed that the council amend city law to give the repair responsibility to the school board, said she was surprised at the school officials' resistance.
Winter told McKenzie, Hall and other board members that "I've stuck my neck out (by proposing that the council amend the law). I think you have a total responsibility (to both teach students and make building repairs)."
Last night's hearing came weeks after Mayor Marion Barry recommended that the school budget request of $396 million be reduced to $380 million. The council's Education Committee is expected to revise the school budget request and send its own version next week to the full council.