State aid should go to public schools first

Parochial aid: Misplaced priorities would divert $6 million away from pupils with dire needs.

March 27, 2000

THE first obligation of Maryland's governor and legislators in the area of education is to create and foster "a thorough and efficient System of Free Public Schools." That's in the state constitution. There is no mention of subsidizing private and parochial schools.

Clearly, state officials haven't done all they could to give Maryland "a thorough and efficient" public school system.

Not when fewer than 15 percent of Baltimore City pupils read at grade level.

Not when many schools throughout Maryland have dog-eared, 20-year-old textbooks.

Not when the governor refuses to fund a state education plan to help floundering elementary and middle-school pupils.

And yet Gov. Parris N. Glendening and legislators are about to divert $6 million of taxpayer funds to help private and parochial schools buy textbooks. Their priorities are badly skewed.

Why deprive distressed public schools of millions for the very basics of education?

How can the governor justify giving aid to religious and private schools when so many kids in public schools aren't getting an adequate education?

Baltimore City, for instance, lacks money for teacher training and summer school for failing second- and fourth-graders. They're asking for $49 million in additional state aid.

The state school board seeks mandatory summer school for eighth-graders floundering in math and reading. That body also has asked for $49 million in state support.

Do the governor and state lawmakers think that the dire, unmet needs of these undereducated kids don't count?

Private and parochial schools are experiencing a boom. They are flourishing. Compare that to the plight of all too many public schools, which aren't giving kids the skills to succeed in life.

Where should the state's priorities be placed? With the pupils who most urgently need the state's help -- in public schools. They deserve to get that "thorough and efficient" education promised in the constitution -- but so far denied.

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