Md. school funding proposal getting low marks Plan to send money to poor districts faces financial and political hurdles

November 15, 1993|By Frank Langfitt | Frank Langfitt,Staff Writer

THE PROPOSAL

This is a corrected version of a chart that ran in yesterday's editions showing how state aid to local school districts would be redistributed over five years under an advisory commission's proposal. Some of yesterday's figures were incorrect. This chart shows the actual average annual increase -- or decrease -- in aid to each jurisdiction under the commission's plan compared with the current law.

3)Jurisdiction ..... ..... Amount ..... %

Allegany ......... ... $1,200,000 ... +3%

Anne Arundel ..... .... 1,900,000 ... +1%

Baltimore City ... ... 39,600,000 ... +8%

Baltimore ........ ... 12,800,000 ... +5%

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

Calvert .......... .... 2,200,000 ... +6%

Caroline ......... .... 1,200,000 ... +6%

Carroll .......... .... 3,800,000 ... +5%

Cecil ...... ..... .... 3,300,000 ... +7%

Charles .... ..... .... 4,000,000 ... +6%

Dorchester ....... ...... 981,000 ... +5%

Frederick ........ .... 6,500,000 ... +7%

Garrett .......... ...... 254,000 ... +1%

Harford .... ..... .... 7,200,000 ... +6%

Howard ..... ..... .... 2,200,000 ... +2%

Kent ....... ..... ..... -336,000 ... -4%

Montgomery ....... ... -4,200,000 ... -2%

P. George's ...... ... 15,000,000 ... +4%

Queen Anne's ..... ...... 578,000 ... +3%

St. Mary's ....... .... 1,800,000 ... +3%

Somerset ......... .... 1,300,000 ... +10%

Talbot ........... ..... -527,000 ... -7%

Washington ....... .... 4,000,000 ... +6%

Wicomico ......... .... 3,400,000 ... +7%

Worcester ........ ..... -983,000 ... -11%

As it moves to its first public hearings today, a proposal to send tens of millions of dollars more in state aid to poor school districts -- including Baltimore -- is already in serious political trouble.

Gov. William Donald Schaefer says he doubts the state could find the extra money recommended by his commission on school funding.

Even if the governor pushes the plan, several key legislators say it is more likely to end up on a shelf somewhere than in Maryland law books next year.

"Right now, there's no extra money," Mr. Schaefer said last week, adding that he had not read the commission's draft report. "Anybody can ask for money, [but] I've got to have a source."

Under the proposal, the annual state school budget -- already scheduled to increase by $634 million in the next five years -- would rise an additional $332 million. The Robin Hood-style recommendation would funnel more money to poor jurisdictions at the expense of wealthier ones such as Montgomery County.

Public hearings on the commission's draft report will begin today in Hagerstown and College Park. The commission plans to submit a final report to the governor by Dec. 1 so he can consider it as he prepares his budget and legislative proposals for the 1994 General Assembly.

Legislative leaders say the recommendation's chances are slim at best.

"The passage would be very difficult," said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., a Prince George's Democrat.

House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr., a Kent Democrat, offered even more pessimistic appraisal. Such a sweeping proposal "will need to be held over for interim study for the next session," he said.

Passing a bill without the support of the House speaker and the Senate president is rare.

The proposal's major obstacles are money and Montgomery County legislators. The funding issue boils down to basic math. Maryland's government spends nearly $2 billion a year -- or about 30 percent of state tax revenues -- on public schools.

The education budget is already scheduled to rise by about $96 million in the next fiscal year. Under the proposal, it would increase an additional $69 million.

But recent estimates by the Schaefer administration showed a cash surplus of only about $35 million in fiscal 1995.

Many legislators say the proposal would require a big tax increase soon. Politically, the timing is poor. The proposal comes one year before statewide elections as Maryland continues to try to climb out of a recession.

"At a glance, it just doesn't seem feasible," said Del. D. Bruce Poole, a Washington County Democrat.

Montgomery County legislators don't like the proposal because their county doesn't fare very well under it. The Washington suburb would receive $21 million less over the next five years than it would under current law. Montgomery legislators, still stinging from the loss of $27 million in state Social Security payments last year, see the proposal as yet another raid on their coffers.

"It's a totally unrealistic proposal," said Del. Gene W. Counihan, a Montgomery Democrat.

Many lawmakers might write the recommendation off completely not for its authors, state Dels. Howard P. Rawlings, a Baltimore Democrat, and Timothy F. Maloney, a Prince George's Democrat. Both are powerful, skilled legislators, holding the respective titles of House Appropriations Committee chairman and education subcommittee chair.

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.