Governor soothes counties with largess for schools Extra $61.5 million in aid comes from state surplus

January 13, 1998|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

Gov. Parris N. Glendening moved to heal a serious regional breach yesterday by proposing $61.5 million in additional education aid that offers something for virtually every part of the state.

The announcement marked the third time in the past week that Glendening has dipped into Maryland's $260 million budget surplus to pour money into education -- which he calls his No. 1 priority. Last week, he announced generous spending plans for higher education and libraries.

"We have an opportunity here," the governor said in a news conference at a Montgomery County elementary school. "We can seize the moment because of the wealth of this state."

Glendening's program adopts -- and exceeds -- the recommendations of a task force created by the governor and House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. after last year's General Assembly session ended in bitter division over the issue of education aid.

Besides the roughly $53 million in additional school operating funds sought by the task force, the governor's plan calls for a $5.5 million infusion for Prince George's County. He noted the costs of ending a racial desegregation plan and cutting the number of provisional teachers in that school system -- now the most in the state.

Glendening proposed an initiative all his own: a $3 million program to upgrade school libraries. In announcing that program, the governor held up a copy of a book he said he found in a Maryland school library: "100 Greatest Sports Heroes," copyright 1954, with a cover depicting an all-white group of athletes.

The governor's announcement allayed the fears of some architects of the task force plan that he would tinker with a delicate political balance crafted by state school Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick to heal a serious breach between the Baltimore area and the Washington suburbs.

"Not only did you not tinker with it, you added to it," said Baltimore County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger, who traveled from Towson for the governor's announcement.

In April, Montgomery and Prince George's County legislators left Annapolis with bruised feelings and threats of political retaliation after the governor won passage of a $254 million program to restructure Baltimore schools. Few Washington suburban legislators supported the plan because it was not coupled with an infusion of aid for disadvantaged children in other parts of the state.

This year they appear to be getting everything they were seeking -- and then some -- from a governor who was clearly delighted to be doing the giving.

Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, who spent much of the spring and summer trying to organize a coalition to overcome Baltimore's power in the Assembly, was one of more than a dozen local elected officials who joined Glendening at Viers Mill Elementary School for the announcement.

"Peace and love are breaking out all over Maryland," said Duncan. He said the end of the dispute helps the governor's electoral prospects in his county and Prince George's.

Among those on hand to endorse the plan was Taylor, who first suggested a task force to grapple with the issue.

"Very infrequently are you allowed to start a legislative session with a victory," said Taylor, who will convene the House of Delegates for the legislature's 90-day session tomorrow.

Glendening acknowledged that the plan has yet to win the support of Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller. But the governor predicted Miller eventually will back the plan, which has been backed by the leaders of the state's seven largest jurisdictions.

The additional aid means that the state will provide more than $2 billion in the next fiscal year in school operating funds to local jurisdictions -- about $180 million more than this fiscal year.

Pub Date: 1/13/98

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