Senate defeats threats to city school aid plan Bill likely to pass chamber's final vote today

March 28, 1997|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

The state Senate moved a step closer to ratifying the settlement of a long-running dispute over money for Baltimore schools yesterday as it turned aside several amendments that might have scuttled the $254 million deal.

The strong margins by which the amendments failed indicated the city schools bill will pass the Senate by a comfortable margin when it comes up for a final vote today.

The Senate's preliminary approval of the bill yesterday came after a lively debate, during which Washington suburban senators argued that poor children in their counties and across the state needed an infusion aid just as much as city students.

The pivotal vote came on an amendment offered by Sen. Christopher Van Hollen Jr., a Montgomery Democrat who tried to add language requiring $44 million in additional state aid for county school systems next year.

The amendment essentially would have implemented a funding proposal backed by the Montgomery, Prince George's and other county executives, but opposed by Gov. Parris N. Glendening as too expensive.

Van Hollen argued that the aid package would be affordable if legislators passed a tobacco tax increase or scaled back a planned income tax reduction.

But Sen. F. Vernon Boozer, R-Baltimore County, warned that Van Hollen's proposal was a "killer amendment."

Van Hollen denied that was his intent, but he watched his proposal go down to a 33-11 defeat. All but one of the amendment's supporters came from Montgomery and Prince George's counties.

By an identical margin, the Senate rejected an amendment offered by Sen. Paul G. Pinsky, D-Prince George's, that would have eliminated a clause in the bill that ensures Baltimore will lose no money if school enrollments fall short of projections over the next several years.

Pinsky argued that the state should not be funding the education of "phantom students."

But Sen. Barbara H. Hoffman, the Baltimore Democrat who heads the Budget and Taxation Committee, noted that the language of the bill came from the consent decree that settles school financing lawsuits filed by the state and city against one another. Any changes to the deal would have to be agreed to by all parties, she said.

Hoffman said the provision was included in the agreement to provide a "level of stability" to the funding of the school system when it comes under the control of a new school board jointly appointed by the mayor and the governor.

Meanwhile, House leaders continued to put off a vote on the bill, although they say they have the support to pass it. House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. has asked Glendening to first deliver a supplemental budget stating exactly how much money will be available for added education aid to the counties.

Pub Date: 3/28/97

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