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Editorial - Rural alliance needed

August 12, 1997

The news that Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening wants to give Prince George's County $250 million in new school aid has Montgomery County officials concerned that the governor is trying to split the alliance the two counties formed last year when similar goodies were offered to Baltimore City. Maybe the partnership will hold and maybe it won't, but if the rural counties don't want to settle for the crumbs, they'd better start putting together an alliance of their own.

This year Montgomery and P.G. counties worked together to oppose a bill to send $254 million to Baltimore to settle a school-based lawsuit, while forcing the other 23 counties to divide just $167 million. They lost that battle, but pledged to keep working together.

But now the arrangement may be threatened because P.G. officials desperately want a judge's okay to end forced busing, and building some new neighborhood schools is the only way they're likely to get it. And while partnerships are nice, P.G. County officials know that with an election year coming up, the stream of state money will flow freely during this session and dry up later.

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If there were any justice, P.G. wouldn't get anything extra because its citizens have refused to remove a cap on property taxes there. Instead of more cash, P.G. citizens need someone gutsier than any of their incumbents to tell them that if they don't care enough to fund better schools for their community's children, they shouldn't expect all the taxpayers in Maryland to do it for them.

What the rural counties need to do is to fight for strict enforcement of the state's APEX rules, which send money to each school district based on enrollment and poverty, with poorer districts getting extra money. Bypassing this formula will turn school aid into a political football, which the bigger more populous counties will fall on like a fumble, knocking aside the smaller rural counties in their quest for cash. The one-man, one-vote rule already gives the larger counties a greater voice in the General Assembly. It shouldn't give them the right to fix the game.

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