A 98-pound weakling in Annapolis Howard County: When delegation bullied the leadership, it imperiled construction aid.

April 17, 1997

ALTHOUGH HOWARD has been one of Maryland's fastest-growing counties, it remains a scrawny kid among the state's more muscular jurisdictions in rough-and-tumble Annapolis. So the county delegation to the General Assembly could only watch meekly as school construction aid tumbled like lunch money in the school yard to its bigger neighbors in Prince George's, Montgomery and Baltimore counties. Howard received $6 million, well below what officials expected.

This in a year when the state is handing out $150 million for school construction, the most in two decades. Howard's share -- 4 percent -- is not enough to pay for projects needed to alleviate crowding. Construction will be delayed on one of two planned middle schools.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening and other members of the Board of Public Works are sending the lion's share to Montgomery and Prince George's, the two Washington suburbs that complained loudly that the governor's decision to send $254 million to Baltimore schools did not include enough for their poor students, and also to Baltimore County, which broke ranks with those other two to get the Baltimore school deal done.

Howard County Executive Charles I. Ecker supported the Baltimore schools package, too, but unlike C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger in Baltimore County, holds less sway over his legislators. Howard's delegation was not behind the governor on school funding for Baltimore, "Smart Growth" or the capital budget.

It does not help that two Howard delegates, Robert H. Kittleman and Robert L. Flanagan, are Republican leaders and among the most ardent supporters of GOP gubernatorial hopeful Ellen Sauerbrey.

Mr. Flanagan reacted strangely to the suggestion that politics figured into the equation: "If [Mr. Glendening] has politicized this, then it's a very sad day for education in the state of Maryland." He is just shocked, shocked! Truth be told, the western Howard legislator has been around the block long enough to understand the consequences of the delegation's actions.

Some state lawmakers seem confident that Mr. Glendening will come through for Howard County next year, before he runs for re-election. But delegates who talk tough, then cry foul, can only hope.

Pub Date: 4/17/97

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