County threatens suit over school aid Montgomery seeks to join Baltimore case

December 05, 1996|By William F. Zorzi Jr. | William F. Zorzi Jr.,SUN STAFF

Unless Montgomery County's concerns about the settlement of the Baltimore education funding dispute are satisfied, County Executive Douglas M. Duncan said yesterday, he may sue the state for additional school aid for his county.

The county has asked the Maryland Court of Appeals to nullify the city-state settlement reached last week so that it can be party to the city's case against the state, a request that initially was denied by a Baltimore circuit judge in April.

"If our appeal is turned down, the No. 1 option we're looking at is a suit," Duncan said yesterday. "We are taking a very hard look at suing the state for lack of adequate funding."

The Court of Appeals is to hear the case Monday and could rule the same day whether Montgomery County should have been excluded from the city's case against the state and the subsequent settlement.

Duncan also said he would ask Prince George's County to join his county in such a suit, to increase state aid to other jurisdictions.

The city-state settlement would give the city $254 million in additional state aid over five years and would provide for an overhaul of the Baltimore school system. The additional aid to the city, which would be included in Gov. Parris N. Glendening's budget, is subject to the approval of the General Assembly when it convenes next month.

If the state's highest court denies Montgomery County's joining the city's case, the process for approving the money would proceed. If the court allows Montgomery to be part of the case, it would reopen the matter against the state and nullify the settlement.

Montgomery County sought to participate in the city case in the event that the ultimate judgment required Maryland to increase its aid to Baltimore schools, presumably leaving less for other districts around the state.

Joseph H. H. Kaplan, administrative judge of the Baltimore Circuit Court, would not allow that, ruling April 4 that Montgomery had no standing in a dispute over whether Baltimore schoolchildren were getting the education they were entitled to by constitutional standards.

"If Judge Kaplan was wrong in excluding us, then I think they've got to start all over," Duncan said.

Judith F. Scioli, Glendening's spokeswoman, said it was premature to address the question of a lawsuit by Montgomery County, but she defended the settlement of the city-state case.

"The consent decree they signed is not only good for the children of Baltimore, but it benefits the entire state," she said. "If the children in Baltimore City receive an inadequate education, the entire state pays later in social costs.

"What the city was asking for [in its case] was far greater than what this consent decree sets forth. The state can afford this while still keeping its commitment to the education of all the children in the state."

Duncan spokesman David S. Weaver said Montgomery County, like the city, now has a high population of "at-risk" students and needs more money to address their problems.

Weaver said Baltimore received $377 million in state education aid last year, while Montgomery County received $118 million. The city has 105,000 students, compared with the county's 113,000, he said.

Montgomery County spent more last year than any other Maryland school district on education, $7,697 per student to Baltimore's $5,873. Baltimore relied most heavily on state aid for its budget, while Montgomery relied on local wealth.

Pub Date: 12/05/96

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