School funding plan assailed in Montgomery

November 16, 1993|By Frank Langfitt | Frank Langfitt,Staff Writer

Montgomery County leaders from all walks of life took aim at an education funding proposal yesterday that they said could damage their public school system and their competitive economic edge.

Like partygoers taking whacks at a pinata, representatives ranging from the county executive to the president of the county's Hispanic alliance criticized the plan as unfair and ill-conceived during a public hearing at the University of Maryland at College Park.

"Your majority report totally ignores our . . . education needs," County Executive Neal Potter told members of a governor's advisory commission that drafted the proposal.

"Is it the goal of this commission to completely cripple Montgomery County so it cannot compete with Fairfax County and Northern Virginia?" asked Carol Fanconi, a member of the county board of education.

Gov. William Donald Schaefer appointed the commission in May to recommend changes in how the state divides the nearly $2 billion in school aid it sends annually to Baltimore and Maryland's 23 counties. A Robin Hood-style proposal, the commission's preliminary plan would help poor jurisdictions like Baltimore at the expense of wealthier ones, particularly Montgomery.

Although no county would receive less that it does now, Montgomery would take in about $21 million less over the next five years than it is now scheduled to under current law.

Two Democratic gubernatorial candidates, Lt. Gov. Melvin A. Steinberg of Baltimore County and Prince George's County Executive Parris N. Glendening, also went to bat for Montgomery yesterday. Angling for votes from Maryland's most populous county, the two told commission members they needed to take more time and come up with a fairer plan.

"It's better to do this right than to do this now," said Mr. Steinberg.

"Let the new General Assembly and new governor resolve the long-term direction," said Mr. Glendening, his political implications drawing laughter from many in the audience of more than 100.

Mr. Glendening said that whenever school funding becomes an issue in Maryland, the question is: How much can the state take from Montgomery County to give to Baltimore City and Prince George's County.

"We're asking the wrong questions," he said.

Mr. Glendening's comments were curious by political standards. Although his home county would would gain $15 million a year on average from the proposal, he criticized it as pitting one jurisdiction against another. Instead, he suggested that for now, the commission might continue the current funding system, which would continue to pump money into his county's magnet school program.

He "started with this broad vision and then got very parochial on us," said Del. Howard P. Rawlings, a Baltimore Democrat who co-wrote the proposal.

The plan has run into political trouble recently because of its effect on Montgomery County and its price tag. It would increase the state education budget -- already scheduled to rise $634 million over the next five years -- by an additional $332 million.

Mr. Schaefer said last week that he doubted the state could afford the proposal.

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.

Jurisdiction ..... ..... Amount ..... %

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

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

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

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

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%

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