6 big counties, Schmoke push school aid deal They'll ask more cash statewide in bid to sell Baltimore accord

'Not a pie-in-the-sky plan'

'Big 7' effort centers on new state formula for funding schools

February 20, 1997|By William F. Zorzi Jr. | William F. Zorzi Jr.,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Thomas W. Waldron contributed to this article.

The leaders of Maryland's largest counties and Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke have agreed to push for more education money for every jurisdiction in the state in an effort to sell the $254 million Baltimore schools deal in the General Assembly.

The so-called "Big Seven" leaders -- Schmoke and the executives of Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Harford, Howard, Prince George's and Montgomery counties -- decided to unite behind the plan during a meeting yesterday in Annapolis, several participants said.

Details -- including how much extra aid would be sought -- have yet to be worked out, but the plan could center on a new statewide school funding formula, coupled with agreement on how to spend $66 million in school construction money that Gov. Parris N. Glendening has yet to commit.

"This would not be a pie-in-the-sky plan, but a realistic plan that would support the Baltimore [schools deal] and help the other jurisdictions," Schmoke said later.

He said members of the group agreed "it would be good to have some consensus on a proposal to help the state's other jurisdictions that could be financed within existing budgetary constraints."

Said Harford County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann: "We're looking at not pitting one jurisdiction against each other."

Backers of the Baltimore school-aid package have long expected other jurisdictions to use it as leverage to gain more state money for themselves. Some county officials have been grumbling that Glendening has not taken a more active approach in addressing that issue.

Glendening did meet Tuesday with Schmoke, state Schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick and key Baltimore legislators to talk about a strategy for passing the bill, but specifics on what the governor might offer other jurisdictions were not discussed, according to those who attended.

The Big Seven leaders, after their meeting yesterday, met with Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller and House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. and presented the outline of their plan. It was unclear last night if they had yet discussed it with Glendening.

Taylor said he expressed support for the concept, but made clear that the cost of any statewide education aid package must be kept "as low as possible."

Baltimore County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger said the executives understood "that whatever the recommendation, we have to show where the money is coming from."

The proposed aid for Baltimore results from the settlement of three lawsuits that sought more state money and improvements in the city schools. Under the deal, the state would be given a role in running the city schools, in exchange for $254 million in new aid to the school system over five years.

As part of the settlement, a new school board would be created, with its members appointed jointly by the governor and mayor, and top schools management would be replaced.

The settlement is contingent, however, on General Assembly approval of the increase in state education aid.

The Big Seven executives have discussed where extra money for the state's other jurisdictions might be found.

Schmoke and Rehrmann said they understood that the state's Board of Revenue Estimates would report next month at its regularly scheduled meeting that more tax revenues are coming in than had been projected.

State Budget Secretary Frederick W. Puddester declined to comment last night on the revenue estimates, saying he had not yet been given the data on which the estimates are figured.

Meanwhile yesterday, the House Ways and Means committee heard a series of education funding bills, including one introduced by Prince George's County legislators that would establish a new funding formula for schools statewide, based on each jurisdiction's poor.

While Baltimore is slated to receive an additional $30 million in state education aid next year under the administration plan, the Prince George's lawmakers have proposed spreading $67 million in extra assistance to the state's 23 counties.

Pub Date: 2/20/97

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