Full State Aid Needed, Educators Declare

Delegation Considers Bills For Workers, Drivers, Schools

February 09, 1992|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff writer

ANNAPOLIS — County school officials told Carroll legislators last week they needthe full scheduled increase in state aid next year to maintain student programs and keep class sizes manageable, not to raise salaries.

Carroll's superintendent, two Board of Education members and the Carroll County Education Association's two top officers urged the legislators to support the planned $184 million statewide increase in education aid. The increase in Action Plan for Educational Excellence, orAPEX, translates to a $6.3 million increase for Carroll schools in fiscal 1993.

"We are counting on APEX money just to maintain the status quo," school board President Cheryl A. McFalls told delegates Thursday. "We're not looking at money going to salaries. It would go to needs we already have."

But some lawmakers remain unconvinced schools can't make do with less. Delegates Richard C. Matthews, R-Carroll, and Donald B. Elliott, R-Carroll, Howard, support a Republican plan that would slice the APEX increase to $26 million, sufficient to keep APEX spending per pupil at this year's level. Sen. Larry E. Haines, R-Carroll, Baltimore, has advocated such a compromise.

The two delegates say education must share the budget-cutting burden during tough economic times and that reducing aid shouldn't cause irreparable harm to students.

Delegate Richard N. Dixon, D-Carroll, agrees that education

must take its hits. The House Appropriations Committee member believes all state programs calling for mandated increases -- such as APEX -- must be re-evaluated.

Dixon said he doubts APEX can be kept intact without a tax increase, which he believes would fail in the House. Carroll's six legislators oppose tax increases.

Delegate Lawrence A. LaMotte, D-Carroll, Baltimore, is the only one of the six whoadvocates full APEX funding, saying it could be possible without a tax increase.

APEX is the primary financing source for Carroll schools and is targeted toward materials, pay, staff training and development and special education. It accounted for nearly one-third of the $107 million county school budget in fiscal 1992. Some delegation members say the scheduled increase is so great that salary increases would be almost inevitable.

"I'm simply telling you in Carroll Countythat's not accurate," said Superintendent R. Edward Shilling.

With a projected 850-student enrollment increase for 1992-1993, Shillingsays the system needs an additional $4.2 million to maintain its $5,020-per-pupil spending level, which ranks 16th out of the state's 24 jurisdictions. Much of the increase would be spent to hire teachers, he said.

Reductions will affect students adversely, said CCEA President Cindy Cummings and Vice President Ralph Blevins during a Wednesday lobbying visit here.

"I have visions of teaching more kids with less supplies next year," said Blevins, a social studies teacher atNorth Carroll Middle School. "I don't think people understand the difference between teaching classes under 30 versus over 30. Small-group instruction could be completely out the window if you're over 30."

The educators are concerned about another potential $3.3 million in reductions to Carroll schools proposed in the governor's budget fornon-mandated programs, such as breakfasts and gifted students; private school placements for students with special needs; transportation;and Social Security. Also, the governor has proposed diverting $33 million from APEX for challenge grants to poorly performing schools, apotential $1.1 million loss to Carroll.

Those reductions would cause diminished services to students, said Shilling.

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