School games

April 17, 1992

Item: Gov. William Donald Schaefer distributes extra millions for school repair and construction to districts whose legislators helped him out of the state's recent budget impasse.

Item: Because so many Baltimore County teachers have already signed up for an early retirement program, everyone leaving will get a bonus equal to 20 percent of his or her yearly salary, and maybe more because it appears others will join in before the deadline this month.

Two disparate facts in the news -- but with a common thread.

Baltimore County's school system, already fearing the prospect of 4,000 new students in September with no money to hire more teachers, may lose 400 current teachers to early retirement. Many veterans are taking advantage of the buyout, they said, because they're weary of the seeming indifference to education by government and parents.

Against that backdrop, Governor Schaefer on Wednesday aimed much of the $35 million in extra construction aid for schools at districts whose legislators backed him in approving new taxes. Supportive Montgomery County got $14 million. Allies in Prince George's County got $4 million. Howard County griped it got punished for lack of support with a measly $800,000 -- which went for a project in the district of Howard's lone tax supporter.

Baltimore County school officials, meanwhile, were pleasantly shocked to receive $600,000 extra to replace a leaky roof at Pikesville High School. Sen. Janice Piccinini and Del. Leon Albin, who represent Pikesville (or soon will) came in for special praise from the governor, along with Dels. Leslie Hutchinson and Michael H. Weir, for voting for three tax bills that helped fund the 1993 budget, road-building and school programs.

Not that Baltimore County would ever look a gift roof in the mouth, but school administrators must have had to contain a private smirk or two: After years of begging for roof replacement funds, they got a bonus this year, it seems, because a few legislators helped the governor in a pinch. The county educators' annual plea always met the reply "there's not enough money." This year, when they didn't ask, they received.

For teachers contemplating early retirement and wondering if state government takes seriously the problems they're facing, this probably wasn't the positive sign they were seeking.

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