Education budget showdown School board and County Executive John G. Gary have widely differing spending priorities.

May 06, 1998

EDUCATION WILL be the most contentious issue in the budget deliberations in Anne Arundel. County Executive John G. Gary has his priorities; the board of education has its own.

Superintendent Carol S. Parham and the school board believe that with revenues on the rise, it is time to increase the education budget substantially.

The board proposed a $501 million budget, $60 million more than this year.

Mr. Gary offered an education budget of $454 million, with $301 million from the county and $153 million from state, federal and other sources.

While Mr. Gary slashed the board's request, he increased the county's contribution to the education budget by $9.6 million, or 3.3 percent.

He contended that the board's priorities were misplaced, noting that its first 13 items totaled $34 million and yet "would not add one teacher to the classroom." Hiring additional teachers was the 14th priority on the board's list.

"They are saying that it is more important to expand the bureaucracy rather than adding classroom teachers," Mr. Gary said.

Throughout Central Maryland, this battle between elected officials who must set the tax rate and school officials charged with shaping education policy is played out time and again.

This recurring political theater will be with us as long as Maryland school boards depend on local governments for their revenue.

Although the battle between Mr. Gary and the board appears to be over money, it is really about control in setting educational policy.

The executive wants class size reduced, while the board wants to increase compensation, among other things.

Mr. Gary, like his counterpart in Harford County, Eileen M. Rehrmann, is trying to structure the budget so the board is restricted from using the money as it pleases.

The County Council, which must set a final budget by the end of this month, will determine who prevails in this battle.

Pub Date: 5/06/98

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