The D.C. City Council Education Committee recommended last night that the D.C. school budget for 1987 be $2 million more than the $380 million proposed by Mayor Marion Barry and that the school board be given authority to contract for roof repairs on school properties.
The committee recommended further that the school board be given authority to use $8 million in capital funds to replace or repair about 35 leaky roofs on school buildings that have been the subject of recent controversy.
The Department of Public Works has been responsible for making major repairs to schools and most other city-owned buildings, but in recent years has hired a string of contractors who have done what some school officials and council members have complained is "poor" and "shoddy" work at the cost of millions of dollars.
If approved by the full council, the recommendation "will make the schools accountable to do its own roof repairs," said council member Nadine Winter (D-Ward 6), who heads the council Committee on Public Works and is a member of the Education Committee.
"The schools should be able to do a better job of it than DPW has, if they go about things correctly," she said.
The proposed $2 million addition in school operating funds would become available after money cut from the 1987 budgets of other city agencies is "redirected" to the school board, according to Education Committee Chairwoman Hilda Mason (Statehood-At Large).
The school board had requested an operating budget of $396 million, and the Education Committee also recommended that the council, acting as a committee of the whole, attempt to find additional funds for the schools when the entire city budget is considered next week.
School Superintendent Floretta D. McKenzie said she was "very disappointed" with the committee's recommendation.
She said that $382 million is "not nearly enough to make the kind of progress we need so desperately at this time."
By not approving the schools' $396 million request, the mayor and council members "have indicated that the city is not serious about the education of our children," McKenzie said as she walked out of the District building after the committee meeting.
School board President R. David Hall was optimistic that more money will be found when the budget reaches the committee of the whole. This being an election year, the budget battle "is not over yet. I think the mayor wants to help us and [Council Chairman David A.] Clarke wants to help us too," Hall said.