School funding plan hits rough road in Md. Senate

March 26, 1997


Staff Writer

ANNAPOLIS - The Senate set a road block Tuesday against a plan that would give millions of dollars in additional funding for Maryland school systems - including $1.3 million for Washington County schools next year.

Three different legislative panels turned back a bid that would have tied $44 million in new school spending next year to an agreement to overhaul Baltimore City schools.

Many lawmakers said the two situations should be dealt with separately and doubted whether such a large amount of money was available for statewide aid.


"The funds are not there," said Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, who sits on the powerful Budget and Taxation Committee.

He said from $12 million to $15 million probably is available in extra education funding. Anything beyond that would likely require a tax increase of some type, Munson said.

"The money is not there, and people who say it is are into wishful thinking," said Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman, D-Baltimore, who chairs the committee.

Baltimore city will receive $254 million for its ailing school system over the next five years as part of a settlement of three lawsuits brought against the state to seek additional funding for the city's school systems.

That agreement has prompted a legislative gold rush of sorts among many lawmakers, particularly those representing large suburban counties, who have tried to leverage additional school funds for their own areas. Last week they proposed a plan based mainly on the number of needy students in each school district.

Washington County, where nearly 6,000 of the school system's 19,510 students receive free and reduced-price lunches, would have received the seventh-largest amount in the state.

"There's no doubt that the situation in Baltimore City is worse than in any other part of the state but a poor child is a poor child, no matter where they live in the state," said Sen. Christopher Van Hollen Jr., D-Montgomery.

Lawmakers who successfully defeated the attempt to attach the two issues urged that turf wars be set aside in the final two weeks of the General Assembly's session, and do what is best for Baltimore.

"In the next two weeks we have to first be state representatives," said Sen. Michael J. Collins, D-Baltimore County.

Senate President Thomas V. "Mike" Miller Jr., D-Prince George's, said additional school funding to other areas could be addressed in other legislation, but there are no guarantees.

"It's premature. Our goal is to take care of an identifiable problem in Baltimore City. I know other jurisdictions have needs - my own county in particular - but that's for another day and another vote and another bill," Miller said.

The Herald-Mail Articles