Governor vows more for schools

December 03, 1993|By William F. Zorzi Jr. and Marina Sarris | William F. Zorzi Jr. and Marina Sarris,Staff Writers

SOLOMONS -- Gov. William Donald Schaefer last night promised at least $20 million more for public schools in an effort to help students in poorer areas.

But Mr. Schaefer shied away from a controversial recommendation to change the complicated formula now used by the state to divvy up millions in school aid to Baltimore and Maryland's 23 counties.

That recommendation, made by a gubernatorial commission, would increase education funding by $69 million next year and use a new formula to funnel more money to poor jurisdictions, such as Baltimore, at the expense of wealthier ones, such as Montgomery County.

"I don't think we can handle the whole increase next year," Mr. Schaefer said.

Mr. Schaefer made those remarks last night in a speech to 300 local and state officials at a Maryland Association of Counties dinner meeting. Under the sketchy plan, the $20-plus million would be targeted to poorer jurisdictions, but the wealthier ones would benefit, as well, without a change to the formula, aides to the governor said.

The administration would target poorer jurisdictions such as Baltimore for poverty grants, extend all-day kindergarten programs and provide health and social programs in schools, Mr. Schaefer said.

Henry W. Bogdan, Baltimore's chief lobbyist, called the governor's $20 million-plus increase "an important first step."

"The committee [studying education funding] has linked social problems . . . and poor school performance," Mr. Bogdan said. "It is important to begin focusing on that problem, and this is a step at doing that."

Mr. Schaefer went on to outline other pieces of his 1994 legislative package -- to be considered by the General Assembly when it convenes next month -- including plans for a special school for disruptive students and grants for year-round school pilot programs.

The governor also will make a last attempt to ban assault pistols.

Although it will be his eighth and last year as governor, Mr. Schaefer promised that he will not "sit back and do nothing."

In fact, he managed to reach beyond his term of office with a proposal that would end up in the lap of the next governor.

Mr. Schaefer drew enthusiastic applause from the local officials when he promised to establish a commission to study the possibility of the state taking over certain agencies that local jurisdictions fund, such as circuit courts, state's attorneys' offices and orphans' courts.

That commission, he said, would report to him next September.

Taking over those three agencies statewide would cost Maryland taxpayers about $102 million next year, a cost too high for inclusion in the budget, he said.

Although Mr. Schaefer repeatedly proposed such a takeover during his tenure as mayor of Baltimore, he has turned away similar requests from local executives as governor.

Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke has proposed legislation for the state to take over those functions -- which cost the city about $20 million -- only to watch the plans go down in defeat year after year.

Earlier this month, Mr. Schmoke said that he would make the state takeover of city courts and prosecutors a priority next year and proposed a three- to four-year phase-in to make the plan politically palatable.

Janet L. Hoffman, Baltimore's longtime lobbyist who had carried Mayor Schaefer's proposals to the State House in years past, said she was "delighted" that the governor was proposing a commission to study the takeover.

"Although the state does not have the funds for the takeover this year, he is initiating the process where the assumptions [of responsibility for the agencies] can be accomplished," Mrs. Hoffman said.

"The outlook is much improved by this step on his part."

In sketching out his public safety plan for the legislature to consider, Mr. Schaefer again advocated a boot camp at Tipton Airfield in Anne Arundel County.

He also said he would reintroduce legislation to ban certain military-style, semiautomatic assault pistols and propose a bill to outlaw high-capacity magazines.

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.