School games

April 25, 1994

If the battle over school funding represents Gov. William Donald Schaefer's form of payback, he must be using the political equivalent of those cheap, misfiring handguns he has sought to ban.

If the governor thought his refusal to fund school construction in Baltimore City and Cecil County reflected poorly on senators from those jurisdictions who had given him some grief in Annapolis, he's wrong.

He's the one who looks bad. We hope that he, or at least the other two members who make up the state Board of Public Works, Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein and Treasurer Lucille Maurer, relent with some of the $12 million that remains for state school construction aid.

At the last minute last week, Governor Schaefer axed $4.5 million to replace Ashburton Elementary in West Baltimore, in the vicinity of Sen. Clarence W. Blount's district. Senator Blount -- said to be such a fan of William Donald Schaefer he begins his letters to him, "My governor" -- nevertheless must have irked the outgoing chief executive by smothering some choice legislation in committee. Ashburton is among the elementaries considered in the worst condition in Baltimore, which due to poverty and population decline has the oldest school facilities in the metropolitan region.

A relatively meager request for state aid in Cecil County also was erased, presumably to settle a score with Sen. Walter M. Baker, another committee chairman who bottled up a few of the governor's initiatives on gambling and smoking.

No one disputes the fact that Montgomery and Howard counties deserve their place on top of the heap for school construction money because they anticipate such large enrollment growth. By Howard is projected to have 25 percent more students than it does now and Montgomery 14 percent more, compared to overall state enrollment growth of 9 percent.

Still, something seems amiss in a system that delivers tens of millions of dollars to a couple of jurisdictions with the most solid tax bases and a few million to places with the least wherewithal.

The schools are key to Baltimore city's health; the city's health is key to the region and the state. This is one political salvo that backfired on the governor.

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