Fund plan for schools under study State board gets look at $3 billion package

July 31, 1996|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,SUN STAFF

The Maryland State Board of Education got a look at next year's budget yesterday -- a $3 billion package accompanied by proposals to help needy children and improve school technology.

Despite a 7 percent increase, the fiscal 1998 budget does not create programs or additional positions. Rather, it continues the level of services now provided to school districts and programs around the state.

Part of the budget request, however, is a list of 38 projects with a combined price tag of $26.6 million -- items that are not included in the $3 billion estimate. It is this list that the board will amend -- and perhaps expand -- before sending the budget to Gov. Parris N. Glendening by Aug. 31.

On that list are three projects, totaling more than $15 million, to help disruptive youth, curb drop-out rates and extend a prekindergarten program to 4-year-olds at 145 new sites. Another item seeks $1.5 million to promote technology in schools over the next five years.

In presenting the budget, Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick warned board members of a rumored state deficit that may force them to be frugal. Still, it is difficult to pare the budget because so much of it is controlled by state and federal mandates, and formulas that provide specific amounts of money to localities.

When department officials got to the discretionary projects, they were encouraged not to hold back by at least one board member.

"If we need $3 million for computers in this building, then ask for $3 million," said Morris Jones of Stevensville. "We ought to be putting together a document that tells the public what we really need to run the public schools in a way that the people want them run."

Jones was responding to a $380,000 unfunded request to complete computer installation and networking at the school system headquarters on East Baltimore Street, after Grasmick said "we can't even send e-mail."

"Is that enough?" Jones asked Assistant Superintendent Mark A. Moody.

"Well, to do the whole thing, we'd need about $3 million," Moody acknowledged.

Jones said the board and the education officials had been "nickel-and-diming the public because we're good people. We don't project what our real needs are."

Though appreciative of Jones' enthusiasm for the department and state schools, Grasmick cautioned that she had to maintain credibility as she shepherded the budget through the governor's office and legislature. "There's a finite pool of money," she said.

In other action, the board approved a plan that would give substantial cash rewards to schools making the most progress toward state standards.

Beginning in October, the most-improved elementary and middle schools will share $2.75 million that the legislature set aside for schools that do well. According to a state department formula, 102 schools would share the money this year.

The average elementary school award would be $23,800 and the average middle school award, $33,100. The number of schools rewarded and the amount of the prizes will vary each year.

Pub Date: 7/31/96

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