Legislators Asked To Back School Financing Formulas

January 16, 1991|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Staff writer

Carroll educators asked the county's legislative delegation to support existing state funding formulas for schools and a variety of reform initiatives, including compulsory school attendance and mandatory kindergarten.

"We've tried to identify some of the issues we have concerns about," county Superintendent R. Edward Shilling told the state lawmakers who attended the annual meeting Monday at the Board of Education office.

In attendance were state Sens. Charles H. Smelser, D-Carroll, Frederick, Howard, and Larry E. Haines, R-Carroll, Baltimore, and state Delegates Donald B. Elliott, R-Carroll, Howard; Richard C. Matthews, R-Carroll; and Richard N. Dixon, D-Carroll. Not present was Delegate Lawrence A. LaMotte, D-Carroll, Baltimore.

Of particular concern to Carroll school officials were the state funding for public school construction and the school aid program known as APEX -- A Plan for Educational Excellence.

School board members and Carroll administrators asked the delegation to support the continuation of the public school construction program at the highest level possible.

"We are agrowth county and we are playing catch-up," said Vernon F. Smith Jr., Carroll's director of school support services.

He said school officials are not only playing catch-up at the elementary level but also at the middle school level. Six hundred new students entered the Carroll school system last September.

Carroll school officials also asked the delegation to support funding for APEX, which provides school districts with money for in-service training for administrators, teacher salaries and other instructional costs at the target level setin the current law. State aid, officials said, has fallen below those target levels.

Shilling called APEX funding critical for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1. He said the district expects to receive an additional $3.8 million in APEX dollars. Carroll received $17.3 million this fiscal year.

"Whatever we don't get, we'll have to go to the County Commissioners for," he told lawmakers.

Shilling noted two new schools -- Spring Garden and Piney Ridge elementaries-- are on line to open in September. Others are on the drawing board.

"We simply have to have the teachers and books," Shilling said. "We're sensitive to the economic climate, but there are realities we have to face."

Haines said he expected the General Assembly to maintain current dollars for health, education and safety services. Mostof the state's fiscal belt-tightening, he said, will come from the delay of capital improvement projects.

"Money is limited," Smelser said.

Maryland State Department of Education initiatives receivinghigh priority from Carroll school officials included compulsory school attendance to age 18 or graduation, mandatory kindergarten and revised high school graduation requirements.

About 200 students dropout of the Carroll system each year, said Peter B. McDowell, director of secondary schools.

"We don't feel good about that," he said.

School officials, he said, could better combat the dropout rate with the passage of the initiative, which also would provide other education alternatives for these students.

Educators said the mandatory kindergarten proposal, aimed at helping the state's disadvantaged, would have little fiscal impact in the county.

Dorothy D. Mangle, director of elementary schools, said a survey of elementary principals showed only one student who entered Carroll's first-grade classrooms this year did not attend kindergarten.

Revised high school graduation requirements would mandate that students pursue classes for either college or a business-technological career or both during their high school years.

Another state proposal to extend the school calendar from 180 to 200 days was opposed by Carroll educators and the delegation.

Smelser called the proposal unaffordable and said spending more money to improve schools doesn't always spell success.

"The problem is always blamed on not enough money," he said. "I say we have to have accountability."

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