Division among the Big Seven General Assembly: Regional split could hurt counties' push for more school aid next session.

April 11, 1997

GLOATING BY Prince George's County Executive Wayne Curry and Montgomery County Executive Douglas Duncan following the end of the 1997 General Assembly session over their failed attempt to gain $377 million in added state money smacked more of election-campaign rhetoric than political reality. Once again, a regional division threatens to split the legislature.

What buoyed the spirits of Messrs. Duncan and Curry was the strong support they received in the House of Delegates from their delegations on a plan to force the state to ante up $377 million in extra school aid, primarily to their two counties. But they overlooked the fact that a majority of Mr. Curry's senators rejected this same plan and a coalition of Baltimore-area legislators and rural lawmakers solidly blocked the P.G.-Montgomery money-grab.

Such narrow parochialism need not persist. What these two county executives sought -- more education support from Annapolis -- is a universal plea throughout Maryland's 24 subdivisions. The state will contribute $2.8 billion to local schools in the next budget year, which includes a whopping 7.5 percent increase in just-approved funds. The state's role in education should continue to grow in future years.

House Speaker Casper R. Taylor said after Tuesday's bill-signing session that he will push in 1998 to increase state aid for primary education, with money going to areas based on the number of children living in poverty. He called it "a priority unmet need."

Indeed it is. And it is a priority on which all legislators can find common ground. Wherever there is poverty, targeted state dollars should flow to shore up the local elementary schools.

Maryland needs a consensus among state and local officials on the kind of education aid schools require and where the funds will come from. That means a meeting of the minds not just between Messrs. Curry and Duncan but among all members of the Big Seven subdivisions in the Baltimore-Washington region. School problems don't stop at political borders. Them-versus-us thinking leads only to bitterness and divisiveness. It does nothing to improve the schools or brighten the future of Maryland's children.

Pub Date: 4/11/97

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