Aid boost for poor students advances Some city legislators say House action slights Baltimore

January 31, 1998|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,SUN STAFF

Over protests by a few Baltimore lawmakers, the House of Delegates overwhelmingly approved yesterday a major increase in state aid for poor schoolchildren across Maryland.

The education package, made possible by the state's healthy economy and budget surplus, would distribute roughly $251.7 million in additional aid to local school systems over the next four years.

House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., a Cumberland Democrat, and state Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick crafted the legislation largely to appease Washington-area suburban county officials upset when Baltimore last year received a five-year, $254 million package of extra school aid and increased oversight.

Some Baltimore lawmakers saying the city is getting too small a share of the latest increase in spending, hope to change the aid formula in the Senate.

"What's happened with this particular piece of legislation to the children of Baltimore is unfair," said Del. Clarence M. Mitchell IV, a Baltimore Democrat who cast one of a handful of dissenting votes.

He had tried unsuccessfully to add about $4.9 million for Baltimore schools.

Del. John Adams Hurson, a Montgomery Democrat, defended the spending formula as a reasonable compromise. Some legislators wanted Baltimore to get full funding, he said, but others thought the city should be excluded because of last year's infusion of aid.

"This is a historic opportunity for this House to bring together all parts of the state," said Hurson, the House majority leader. Noting the "divisive debate" over awarding Baltimore the education package as part of a restructuring of its troubled school system, Hurson said, "This year, we'll attempt to deal with all children of the state."

The bill, supported by leaders of Maryland's seven largest jurisdictions and Gov. Parris N. Glendening, coasted through the House on a 129-5 vote, with three abstentions.

Baltimore Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman, chairwoman of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, said she hopes to change the provision that sets the city's share of the part of the aid based on the number of students in poverty at 50 percent of what other jurisdictions are getting.

Instead of bringing Baltimore to 100 percent funding immediately, as Mitchell attempted to do, Hoffman intends to try to do so over four years.

Baltimore is treated the same as other counties in other formulas in the package, which would provide $6.9 million in new aid to the city next year and greater amounts to Montgomery, Prince George's and Baltimore counties. Statewide, $61.5 million would distributed next year, and the formula increases the amount by about $1 million a year in the next three years.

One part of the formula is based on the number of children receiving subsidized lunches, and another is based on the number of children for whom English is a second language. That would increase the amount of state money for Montgomery, where about half of those students live.

In all, the state will be sending more than $2.1 billion -- out of a total state budget of more than $16 billion -- in education aid to local school systems.

Pub Date: 1/31/98

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