D.C. School Superintendent Floretta D. McKenzie said yesterday that "inadequate" funding recommendations by Mayor Marion Barry and the City Council have so frustrated her that she is considering whether she should remain as head of the schools.
McKenzie, who has served as superintendent for almost five years, said city officials have demanded that the school system improve, but have not provided enough money for the schools to succeed.
"If we don't have appropriate resources, we can't meet those demands and expectations and I don't want to be with an organization where I am continuing to fail," said the superintendent, who is paid about $80,000 annually.
McKenzie joined school board members at a press conference called to criticize city officials for recommending $14 million to $16 million less for the public schools in the 1987 fiscal year than school officials had requested.
She said she doubted the schools could "work throughout another year with one hand tied behind our backs."
"I will not say . . . that I will quit . . . but I am saying that it is to the point that I do have to consider it," McKenzie said.
McKenzie, who has generally been praised for helping elementary school students improve their academic performances, said that standardized test scores have "reached a plateau" on the elementary level and that secondary students "are not performing as they should."
School board member Eugene Kinlow (At Large) was equally critical of city officials, but said the board itself must share the blame for the low budget recommendations by the mayor and the City Council's Education Committee because it did not request a larger sum.
The school board has "just been too damned honest and too timid for too long," he said.
Kinlow criticized the mayor for inattention to the schools' funding needs over the last several years and for demonstrating a lack of confidence in the schools by sending his son Christopher, 5, to a private kindergarten.
The schools requested $396 million in operating funds for next fiscal year, but the mayor recommended that they receive $380 million.
This week, the council's Education Committee, chaired by Hilda Mason (Statehood-At Large), proposed that the schools receive $382 million.
Mason asked her committee to recommend the total $396 million, but the committee pared the request.
Council member Carol Schwartz (R-At Large) said that when she was a school board member a few years ago, she supported full funding for the schools, but "I'm in a different position now. I am responsible for the city deficit."
"I am disappointed that the former board members don't operate with the same thrust they did when they were on the school board," Mason said. "The needs are the "If we don't have appropriate resources, we can't meet these demands and expectations." -- Floretta D. McKenzie same whether they are on the board or off the board."
The school budget goes before the council's committee of the whole in two weeks, when council members or the mayor could make additional changes.
The school board is one of just two city agencies for which the council has recommended more funds than the mayor proposed, according to a council staff member. The inspector general's office, which was recommended to receive about $35,000 more than the $1.2 million proposed by the mayor, was the other agency.
McKenzie said that without the $396 million originally requested by the school board, there will be no new programs next year in city schools.
With the $382 million proposed by the council, the schools could only raise teacher salaries and "keep up with inflation."
Plans to reduce overcrowded classes, hire bilingual teachers and expand prekindergarten classes would have to be scuttled without the full amount, she said.