Grasmick to propose $50 million in state aid to local school systems

October 22, 1997|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,SUN STAFF

Local school systems would receive about $50 million in state aid geared to teaching students from poor families under a plan to be outlined today by Maryland school Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick, according to people familiar with her proposal.

The spending increase has the support of leaders in the House of Delegates, who hope they can build consensus around the proposal and avoid a repeat of the bruising regional fight over education funding that divided the General Assembly earlier this year.

House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., who helped craft Grasmick's plan, declined to discuss details but said he thought the package could win support in the 141-member House. "I think it's a grand-slam proposal," Taylor said. "I think it will put the funding equity issue to rest."

It is not clear, though, if Grasmick's proposal will satisfy lawmakers from Prince George's County, who have been pushing for a bigger state aid package for their school system as it prepares to end a quarter century of court-ordered busing.

Under Grasmick's plan, about $12 million would go to Prince George's, which, after Baltimore, has the highest concentration of students from families in poverty.

In addition, Grasmick is expected to outline next month a separate spending plan to help Prince George's deal with the end of busing, a proposal that would include additional funds for building and renovating schools.

A joint proposal by the Prince George's school board and the NAACP calls on the county and state to send an extra $500 million to Prince George's schools over the next five years.

Grasmick's proposal, to be presented in Annapolis today to a task force studying education funding, reportedly falls far short of that goal. Key legislators have said such a figure is unrealistic.

"They're asking for the sun, moon and stars," said one influential lawmaker. "They might only get a satellite orbiting the Earth."

The spending package would come on top of the $2.8 billion the state sends to local governments for education.

Grasmick's proposal is an outgrowth of the bitter fight over the $254 million, five-year education aid package for Baltimore approved by the Assembly and Gov. Parris N. Glendening.

That package, which resulted from lawsuits over conditions in the city school system, prompted legislators from Prince George's and other counties to push unsuccessfully for significant increases in state aid for their schools.

Montgomery County, one of the leaders of the effort to wrest more state aid, would receive roughly $10 million under Grasmick's plan, sources said. That number is close to the amount proposed by Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan in a spending plan he floated last week.

Grasmick's proposal also would give Baltimore schools about $7 million in aid, on top of the money approved this year, sources said.

Last night, a Glendening spokeswoman said the governor supports "the concept" of Grasmick's proposal, but said it was too early to say how much school money he will include in next year's budget.

Pub Date: 10/22/97

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