School building bounty `Education governor': Glendening didn't let partisan politics interfere with aid for infrastructure needs.

May 17, 1999

PARRIS N. GLENDENING, who said he wanted to be the "education governor," can at least lay claim to being the "education infrastructure governor."

In awarding $257 million for school construction in the coming year, Mr. Glendening is funding projects at a level that affirms his own description: "Golden age for school construction."

He provided $634 million for school construction in his first term, almost twice the total of the prior four years. Benefiting from economic good times, he is on pace to provide $1 billion to build and renovate schools through his second term.

He isn't likely to match the $1.2 billion Gov. Marvin Mandel pumped into new schools in the 1970s -- a figure even more impressive considering inflation and that the overall state budget was $2 billion in 1972-1973 vs. $17.5 billion for 1999-2000. But total construction spending is greater today because the local government share is much greater than in the Mandel era.

The accusation that Mr. Glendening plays politics with school aid can't be leveled this time. He was generous to counties led by Republicans as well as Democrats. For example, GOP-led Carroll County, which accused the governor of retaliating against it during the recent legislative session, received $8 million, most of it for a sixth high school.

Baltimore is getting $25 million, including $2.8 million to replace aging boilers, such as the one that erupted and scalded a young girl in 1996. Baltimore County got all $30 million it sought. Anne Arundel received a record $13.2 million, a 42-percent increase that Executive Janet S. Owens dubbed Christmas in May. Howard County received $16 million; Harford, $8 million; and Montgomery and Prince George's counties, with the greatest building needs, received $50 million and $40 million, respectively.

It is incumbent on school boards and administrators to get the most from every dollar.

Some school officials have made questionable, even irrational, decisions on planning and oversight of construction.

Accountability is needed to maintain public confidence and advance the governor's goal of proper facilities for education.

Pub Date: 5/15/99

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