Legislators vow to get funds for 13 new schools

Prince George's seeking $44 million from state

January 11, 2000|By Joel McCord | Joel McCord,SUN STAFF

LANDOVER -- Prince George's County elected officials gathered yesterday in the library of a historically black school, reopened in August after 27 years, and pledged to bring home money from the General Assembly for 13 new schools.

Last year, the county's delegation received $39.5 million in state money to build 13 schools, and legislators said they are looking for $44 million for 13 more schools, many of them in communities inside the Capital Beltway.

School construction funds were on a county wish list that included money for economic development projects, to revitalize older communities and to create a specialized court to arbitrate high-tech business disputes.

But the most important of those is school money, said County Executive Wayne K. Curry.

"We have never faltered and we will continue to push fervently and energetically to get all the schools we need," Curry said at a news conference at Highland Park Elementary School.

Prince George's, like most other Maryland counties, closed schools and turned them over to local governments or began using them for administrative offices as enrollments dropped during the 1970s and 1980s. In addition, the county was busing students out of their neighborhoods to meet federal desegregation guidelines.

In many cases, the schools that were closed were inside the Beltway, said Capital Improvement Program Officer David Lever.

As part of the 1998 memorandum of understanding ending the busing order, Prince George's promised to create neighborhood schools in 13 specific communities.

"Our children deserve first-class, clean schools, just like the children in other systems in jurisdictions around the Beltway," Curry said.

Curry and the chairmen of Prince George's House and Senate delegations, Sen. Ulysses Currie and Del. Rushern Baker, met before Christmas with Gov. Parris N. Glendening to push for school construction money.

"The governor's top priority is funding education and we're happy to work with the county to make that happen," Mike Morrill, Glendening's communications director, said yesterday. But he cautioned that Prince George's request will be evaluated with requests from the rest of Maryland's jurisdictions.

"Last year, they got every penny they requested. And while he can't make that promise in advance, the governor would like to do as much as possible," Morrill said.

During the news conference, Curry and the others took every opportunity to crow about new-found unity in what often has been a fractious political world in Prince George's.

"We're all of one accord when it comes to what we want to do in the 2000 legislative session," said Dorothy Bailey, county council chairwoman. "We just met for five hours this morning and we have yet to have our first disagreement."

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