Baltimore County's school superintendent insists that his department's budget must be bolstered by $55 million next year -- just to maintain the status quo. People must realize, Robert Dubel said, that the school system will be forced to accommodate 4,000 more students.
This, we are confident, comes as a revelation to no one, least of all County Executive Roger Hayden -- erstwhile school board president. The seeming contradiction of spiraling school enrollment, which has long been projected, coupled with promises to cut spending haunted Hayden's campaign last fall. And the candidate responded by repeating his promise to voters like a mantra: a Hayden administration would cut spending. Read his lips.
Dubel has temporarily taken the heat off Hayden, saying he is pinning his hopes for funding on the General Assembly's enacting Linowes Commission recommendations. But the political realities in Annapolis make that a long shot. Chances are the education chief is going to have to go to his former school board president for more money. But even if Hayden does the right thing and amply funds education, the $55 million Dubel wants, plus the increase in fixed costs throughout the rest of government, will make it impossible to balance the books with flashy talk about cutting the fat. Which will leave the executive with two unpalatable choices: either deny the superintendent's request or push for additional revenue from property taxes, the only feasible way to bring in that much money.
For his part, Hayden -- who is now caught between the realities of governing and campaign promises -- won't say whether or not Dubel is whistling in the wind. No wonder.