No doubt Baltimore's county executive will have to go to unprecedented lengths to try to patch a $26 million budget hole caused by a loss of state aid and dipping local revenues. But there is more than a tinge of irony in Roger Hayden's support of a new law that lets the county cut the already-approved school budget; there is hypocrisy.
Hayden, after all, ran for county executive partly in anger over what he charged were Dennis Rasmussen's attempts to infringe on the autonomy of the school board by using his clout to control its membership. But this week Hayden, a former school board member and president himself, urged state lawmakers to give local leaders the power to reduce approved school budgets which, until now, county government had been prohibited from cutting. Tuesday, teachers and parents from all over the state descended on Annapolis to let lawmakers know they are angry over a budget deal that trims aid to counties and then lets local government make up for the cuts in part by slicing school spending.
Education is, indeed, one of local government's most critical functions. If the governor signs the bill giving counties the power to cut school money, county governments throughout Maryland are going to take the heat. But Hayden will also be haunted by his own once-fervent defense of the sanctity of school board autonomy, and by the fact that regardless of the board-stacking charges against his predecessor, Hayden will be attacking education in a much more vital way by cutting funding.