Trickle-down economics School board members shouldn't be so cavalier about federal cuts.

November 10, 1995

THE BOARD OF Education in Carroll County did not think a $238,000 reduction in federal school aid very important, so it decided not to send a letter to Congress protesting proposed cuts in education funding. By shifting money around, board members reasoned, the system should have no trouble maintaining those programs that relied on federal grants. Besides, they said, the strings tied to Washington money aren't worth the bother. In reality, however, if these drastic cuts in U.S. education aid do occur, Carroll will be looking at millions of dollars in reduced state aid.

This year, Carroll's operating education budget calls for spending about $141 million. The county will provide $80 million. The rest is mostly from state and federal sources. The state will supply about $55 million; Washington about $3 million. Revenues from fees and other sources make up the rest.

If cuts are made in federal education funds, Carroll is looking at a reduction beyond a few hundred thousand dollars flowing from Washington. The federal government pays for about 6 percent of Maryland's primary and secondary education budget, mainly in the form of aid for disadvantaged students. If that money disappears, state money will have to fill the void. That means large sums will go to Baltimore City and counties such as Prince George's, Baltimore and Anne Arundel with their large poor populations.

Since Carroll County has a relatively small share of disadvantaged students, it would see a noticeable drop in state grants. Assuming that the state has to cut 10 percent of its contribution to Carroll's education budget, the school board could be looking at a loss of about $5.4 million.

What makes the reduction even more devastating is the growing size of Carroll's public school enrollment, which is increasing at the rate of roughly 900 pupils a year.

While it is easy to rail against the restrictions and paperwork that accompany federal dollars, that money cannot be dismissed as incidental. It plays an important role in Maryland's education funding. Hefty increases in county taxes would be needed to raise the amount of money Carroll would eventually lose under the current budget proposals floating around Congress.

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