Delegates Want Md. To Foot Bill

State Would Pay 75% Of School Mandates

February 18, 1992|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Staff writer

County lawmakers are sponsoring legislation that would require the state to pay for 75 percent of the programs it mandates for local schools.

Educators across the state, including Anne Arundel County, have protested increasingly that the State Board of Education is imposing costly new requirements, such as mandatory kindergarten, without regard to how local school boards will pay for them.

"At this point, there is absolutely no accountability on the state board," said Tom Paolino, president of the Anne Arundel County Teachers Association.

"They can do and say what they want. They can change graduation requirements on a whim . . . and leave the local school boards to foot the bill."

The county's House of Delegates contingent voted, 9-1, Friday to sponsor a bill that would require the State Board of Education to foot 75 percent of the cost in the future. The bill also would require the state board to prepare a fiscal impactstatement and submit its proposals to the General Assembly for review.

"This puts a damper on those silly, arbitrary mandates," said Del. John Gary, a Republican from Millersville.

Though the local delegation's bill would apply only to Anne Arundel, legislators and school systems in other counties have expressed "unofficial" interest, said Dottie Chaney, senior member of the Board of Education and its legislative liaison.

"This bill is going to have a life of its own,"said Gary. "Every other major subdivision is going to want to opt on."

Although teachers and school administrators have complained loudly about the state's year-old school performance testing program, Gary said it was a change in the graduation requirements last year that"cooked the goose."

The state board adopted a controversial proposal that requires high school seniors to complete 75 hours of community service before they graduate.

Local school officials fear the program could become expensive as they attempt to track their students' progress and transport them to and from volunteer activities.

Cost is not the only problem with the community service requirement, Gary said.

"How do you force someone to be a 'volunteer'?" he asked.

Del. Tyras S. "Bunk" Athey, who voted against the bill, said he'sconcerned the bill emasculates the state board, robbing it of power to set statewide standards.

"Don't think for one minute that I support the mandates that are being pushed down on the locals," said Athey, D-Jessup.

But, "If you don't have someone (at the state board)calling the shots, you'll have 23 school systems heading in 23 different directions."

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