October 04, 2007

ACLU stands up for education funding

In a bluntly worded letter to Gov. Martin O'Malley, the ACLU reminded the governor of his past commitment to education funding and said he could not change the current level of state funding unless he requested a change in the law.

The governor has said he is considering eliminating an "inflation factor" that automatically increases the level of state funding for education each year by the rate of inflation.

A state law passed in 2002, known as Thornton funding, requires increases in education funding through this year and then provides for an increase for inflation in subsequent years.

The inflation factor, the letter said, "is a defined part of the [Thornton] law; eliminating or reducing it will require a change in law."

The ACLU, or American Civil Liberties Union, believes the cuts will amount to a $148 million reduction in state education funds in the first year.

The letter was signed by Bebe Verdery, director of the ACLU's education reform project, who has followed the state funding issue for more than a decade.

State funding is critical because it provides the majority of funds for some school districts, particularly Baltimore.

Liz Bowie

Allegany County

: State's attorney

Twigg withdraws view on slots

The Allegany County state's attorney has thrown the gambling industry a curve by rescinding his opinions that certain machines that look and sound like slot machines are instead legal "paper gaming" machines.

Michael O. Twigg said such decisions should be made by the county gaming office and the courts, and not by state's attorneys who might have to prosecute gambling violations. County Attorney William M. Rudd disagrees.

The dispute reflects an issue facing many Maryland counties that regulate paper-based games such as pull tabs, tip jars and bingo at the local level.

The state Court of Appeals ruled in a Calvert County case in 2001 that certain machines that have been modified to dispense paper tickets instead of coins don't violate the state ban on slots. Since then, makers of the machines, and those who would profit from them, have sought to install them anywhere they can.

Worcester County

: Ocean City

Man found in crashed-boat case

Maryland Natural Resources police have found the man they said they were looking for in connection with the crash of a stolen sport fishing boat in Ocean City.

Sgt. Ken Turner says John Edward Cropper, 42, of Ocean City was found Tuesday night. Turner says Cropper apparently is not the man reported to have fallen overboard by the allegedly intoxicated operator of the crashed boat.

Turner says Natural Resources Police are still searching the water in the area but have ramped down the search efforts.

The 48-foot boat ran aground near the U.S. 50 bridge early Tuesday morning, about an hour after the Coast Guard received reports of a stolen boat.

Rescuers found Christopher Bornaschella, 24, of Chincoteague, Va., on board. Authorities say he was intoxicated and told them a man he met at a local bar had fallen overboard.

Bornaschella is charged with theft, reckless operation and alcohol-related violations.

Associated Press


: Gypsy moths

Funds provided for spraying

The federal government is providing $800,000 to help private Maryland landowners defray the cost of aerial spraying for gypsy moth caterpillars next year.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service says eligibility is limited to landowners with forest tracts of at least 10 acres and a current forest stewardship plan or management plan. Maryland Agriculture officials say the pests defoliated more than 45,000 acres in Garrett County this year.

The NRCS says more than 100,000 acres across much of Maryland have been identified as potentially susceptible next year.

Associated Press


`Bridge' plan wins praise

County school board members gave a warm reception yesterday to state school Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick's proposal for an alternative path to high school graduation.

Grasmick, speaking in Ocean City to the annual conference of the Maryland Association of Boards of Education, touched on several issues, including her proposed Bridge Plan for Academic Validation.

Grasmick's proposal offers Maryland high school students who repeatedly fail one of their four high school assessment tests the option of completing a supervised academic project in lieu of the exams.

Now, a student must pass all four, or at least earn a satisfactory combined score, to get a diploma. Students begin taking the tests in their freshman year of high school and have as many as eight tries to successfully complete the tests before graduation.

A state Department of Education analysis of test results by last year's sophomores estimated that 1,600 to 3,000 students statewide could be in danger of failing to pass the required assessment tests before graduation.

The state Board of Education is expected to take up the proposal this month.

Capital News Service

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