State plan for more school aid is hailed Schmoke, Amprey speak at hearing

November 18, 1993|By Frank Langfitt | Frank Langfitt,Staff Writer

Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and School Superintendent Walter G. Amprey warmly welcomed yesterday a proposed change in state education funding that would give the city about $40 million more every year.

During a public hearing at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, the mayor praised the plan for addressing the needs of the state's poorer students -- even if that means wealthier jurisdictions like Montgomery County don't get as much as they are scheduled to under current law.

"Your draft report goes farther than any prior effort in Maryland to grapple with the need for adequate resources," Mr. Schmoke said. "What you have proposed will make things better for students in Baltimore City."

While the two men supported the plan, Dr. Amprey expressed at least one reservation: The money would not come fast enough. Because money for the proposal is phased in over five years, he said, many students wouldn't feel its full effects.

The comments of the mayor, superintendent and others yesterday were a mirror image of those heard at a public hearing Monday in College Park, where Montgomery County leaders criticized the plan as costly, unfair and poorly thought out.

The proposal is the work of an advisory commission impaneled by the governor 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.

During their sessions, commission members focused on trying to provide an adequate education to all Maryland students, especially those living in or near poverty. The majority of such students live in Baltimore.

Yesterday's hearing was the last of five held this week around the state. The commission plans to meet Wednesday to draft a final version, which it hopes to send to the governor in early December for consideration as he prepares his agenda for the 1994 legislative session.

Gov. William Donald Schaefer has already expressed doubts about whether there will be enough money to pay for the proposal given the state's budget problems.

While most spoke yesterday in favor of the plan, state Del. Ellen R. Sauerbrey, the House minority leader and a Republican gubernatorial candidate, said Maryland needs to better understand how schools spend money before pouring tens of millions more into the system.

Delegate Sauerbrey urged the commission to recommend an audit of Maryland's public schools. If it did not do so, she said, she would push legislation requiring it.

Mark K. Joseph, who represented the Greater Baltimore Committee, said his influential business organization supported the plan, but lamented that much of the debate had been reduced to a regional struggle.

Businesses, he said, don't judge prospective employees by where they came from, but by how well they can read and write. "We conduct our business across jurisdictional lines. These kids are all Maryland kids and they need to all be educated."

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