School reform goes down to wire Montgomery, P.G. delegates threaten city plan in vote today

April 05, 1997|By William F. Zorzi Jr. and C. Fraser Smith | William F. Zorzi Jr. and C. Fraser Smith,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Jean Thompson contributed to this article.

With time running out in the 1997 legislative session, the House of Delegates is headed for a showdown today on the Baltimore schools deal.

House leaders scheduled a committee vote on the measure for this morning, after Gov. Parris N. Glendening sent the General Assembly a $65.4 million sup- plemental budget plan yesterday that includes $33.4 million in new statewide education aid next year.

Though the new money might not have won additional support for the city schools bill, House leaders said they have enough votes to move it out of committee and pass it on the floor, sending it to the Senate later in the day.

But delegates from Montgomery and Prince George's counties -- a powerful bloc of votes -- vowed to stick together and withhold their support of the city package until they get more money from the governor.

Glendening's supplemental spending plan included $8.1 million more in education aid for Prince George's next year.

With the money already in the governor's original budget proposal, Prince George's schools would see an 8.5 percent increase over this year. Montgomery schools, which received $6.3 million in the supplemental, would see a 7.3 percent jump over this year.

The money apparently was not enough.

"We're not happy because today's proposal does not provide an adequate level of extra help for poor kids across the state," said Del. James C. Rosapepe, a Prince George's Democrat.

Instead, the two suburban Washington delegations are seeking $44.1 million in additional aid to the 23 counties. They plan to offer a floor amendment to the city schools bill that would require increasing the funding to that level.

The two delegations met last night behind closed doors in a strategy session, refusing to admit the news media.

Afterward, Del. Kumar P. Barve, a Montgomery Democrat designated to speak for the group, affirmed the delegations' decision to seek more money, saying, "We're all together on this."

Rosapepe said he and his allies think there is more money to be had -- that Glendening will send down another supplemental, rather than see the Baltimore deal fail.

But Budget Secretary Frederick W. Puddester said there will be no more. "The governor is not going to appropriate any more funds in another supplemental," he said.

House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. said he was "confident" his chamber would pass the city schools management reform package -- a proposal that would send $254 million into the Baltimore school system over five years, $30 million of it next year.

Asked if he thought the governor's supplemental budget proposal was a reasonable effort to win votes for the city package, Taylor said, "If anything, it's too good."

He termed the push by county executives for more money "divisive and polarizing."

The city schools legislation grew out of a consent decree last fall that settled three lawsuits over conditions in the Baltimore school system.

The bill would create a new school board, whose members would be appointed by the governor and mayor from a list of nominees named by the state school board.

The new city aid is contingent on the management reforms being in place. Should the legislation fail, the lawsuits would be reopened and the issues of school management and funding would be back in court.

Meanwhile yesterday, Maryland's highest court dealt a blow to Montgomery and other suburban counties that had hoped to undo the city school-reform legislation by negating the court agreement on which it is based.

The Court of Appeals upheld lower court decisions that prevented Montgomery from entering one of the three lawsuits that spawned the pending school reform legislation.

The court's 4-3 decision prompted renewed threats by Montgomery County to sue the state for increases in school aid. "I think that you are going to see other jurisdictions file lawsuits, and we could be one of them," said Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan.

Pub Date: 4/05/97

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