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Editorial - Schools and politics

November 07, 1997

Editorial - Schools and politics

In a move that could deprive Harford County Executive Ellen Rehrmann of one of her key issues in her campaign against fellow Democrat Parris Glendening, leaders of the Maryland General Assembly last week said they'd like to see a comprehensive approach to education funding.

The funding issue arose last year after Gov. Glendening approved a $250 million settlement of a suit brought by the Baltimore City school system. That got elected officials thinking in Prince Georges County, where a voter-imposed tax cap has left officials short of funds. Maybe, some said, filing our own suit wouldn't be such a bad idea.

Glendening weighed in again, saying he felt that additional money for Prince Georges County was justified, since the county had for many years been under a judge's order to bus children from one school to another to achieve racial integration. There have recently been some moves to get that order dissolved, but while it would allow students to attend schools in their own neighborhoods, some of the schools, abandoned decades ago, will have to be completely rebuilt.

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In that circumstance, we can justify more capital construction money for Prince Georges County, but operating money should not be doled out on the basis of a political negotiation, but through a formula that takes a student's family income into account.

This is usually done by considering the number of students who are eligible for free and/or reduced-price lunches. The General Assembly proposal would factor income in, but would also provide help for those schools where there are large numbers of students for whom English is a second language.

It would also be nice to require a local match for any additional state funds, but we don't expect any such requirement to get through the legislature. Prince Georges County residents, after refusing to raise their own taxes on behalf of education, aren't going to take anything less than an outright gift from the rest of the state's taxpayers.

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