School 'choice' test is limited to Baltimore STATE HOUSE REPORT

January 23, 1993|By From Staff Reports

Gov. William Donald Schaefer's controversial plan to give 200 low-income students money for private or parochial schools is limited to children in Baltimore City, say Schaefer administration officials.

The proposal, announced in the governor's State of the State address last week, originally was portrayed by budget officials as a statewide initiative.

But the budget proposal released by the governor this week includes $582,000 for a school "choice" proposal that will apply only to 200 students in Baltimore. Those students would get $2,900 vouchers that could be used for tuition at private schools, or to pay fees for attending public school in other jurisdictions.

"It makes sense to put it in one jurisdiction," Schaefer press secretary Page Boinest said, noting Baltimore would give a contained arena with a low-income school population.

In addition, Del. Howard P. Rawlings, the city Democrat who heads the House Appropriations Committee, co-sponsored a similar voucher bill in last year's session, along with Del. Robert L. Flanagan, a Howard County Republican.

The governor's proposal faces strong opposition from legislators and public education interests. They argue that a voucher plan could siphon students and state money away from the public schools.

In remarks to Baltimore's House delegation yesterday, Superintendent Walter G. Amprey said, "Any public educator worth his salt would be against a voucher system." He said such a plan could increase public-private education divisions.

Change execution method: Hoping to make the death penalty more palatable, the Senate's leading supporter of capital punishment has introduced a bill to change the method of execution to lethal injection.

Sen. Walter M. Baker, Judicial Proceedings Committee chairman, also is sponsoring eight other bills to speed up the day when Maryland resumes executing murderers.

The state has a death penalty statute but hasn't used its gas chamber in more than 30 years.

A dozen inmates are on death row, but state officials estimate that continuing appeals will prevent an execution from taking place for at least two years.

Mr. Baker has waged an annual -- and so-far unsuccessful -- battle to bring capital punishment back to Maryland by eliminating what he considers to be frivolous appeals. But the Cecil County Democrat believes he could finally succeed this year.

"Because of the violent crimes we have been having throughout the state, the mood is probably right," he said yesterday, noting that Gov. William Donald Schaefer and Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke have lent their support to his efforts.

At the center of Mr. Baker's capital punishment package is a measure that would make lethal injection the method of execution in Maryland.

Maryland is the only state that has the gas chamber as the exclusive method of execution.

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