Playing politics with school aid Glendening's P.G. plan: Superintendent Grasmick latest to blast piecemeal approach.

October 11, 1997

THE GOVERNOR'S rationale for sending $250 million in special aid over five years to Prince George's County schools has never made sense.

His argument that the money is needed to satisfy a legal challenge against court-ordered busing there is premature, since judge's ruling on the case isn't expected until later this fall.

His comparison with last year's $254 million infusion of special aid to Baltimore schools is also unconvincing because Prince George's, in spite of poverty inside the beltway, does not suffer comparable school dysfunction. For example, the dropout rate in Prince George's, the state's largest school system, is below the state average of 5 percent; Baltimore's rate is three times as bad, at 15 percent. Also, nine of every 10 elementary schools with the lowest scores on the Maryland Schools Performance Assessment Program are in Baltimore.

Now Mr. Glendening's plan has taken another big hit: Maryland Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick doesn't support it. Dr. Grasmick, who works for the State Board of Education and not the governor, understands that Mr. Glendening's unilateral solution to a quarter-century of desegregation policy could undermine a quarter-century of education policy that prescribes a statewide approach to help "at risk" students.

Mr. Glendening must not take a back-door route to funnel extra aid to Prince George's, his home county, in the form of construction funds, for which he is not as constrained by the legislature. Were he to channel, say, $40 million apiece to Prince George's and Montgomery counties, that would leave Maryland's other 22 jurisdictions to pick at the remaining $60 million. Where is the equity there?

The school construction program in Maryland has garnered respect for its independence from politics. Not every county cheers what it receives, but proposals generally are considered on their merit. Indeed, if Parris Glendening's intent is to bolster his base in the three large jurisdictions he needs to win re-election, he is playing into his opponents' hands: A calculated, piecemeal approach to education aid feeds the impression that this governor is so consumed by political peddling he won't even keep it out of the schools.

Pub Date: 10/11/97

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