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Glendening plan will boost local school coffers

January 12, 1998

Glendening plan will boost local school coffers

By GUY FLETCHER

Staff Writer

Washington County public schools will receive an additional $1.1 million in state funds next year under a new education plan unveiled Monday by Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening and other state leaders.

The plan, part of an additional $61.5 million proposed to be spent statewide on education next year, would push state funding for county schools next year to $54.9 million.

County Schools Superintendent Herman G. Bartlett did not comment, saying he wanted to find exactly what the plan means. Board of Education member Doris J. Nipps agreed that closer inspection is needed, especially if the new money carries restrictions on how it is spent.

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"We need to look at the fine print before we say this is a really, really good thing. But on the other hand, I'm not going to turn down any money," Nipps said.

County schools are being allotted $52.6 million in state funds this year, according to the governor's office. That makes up nearly 48 percent of the Board of Education's $109.9 million operating budget.

Under the traditional school funding formula, state operating funds would have increased by more than $1.1 million, to nearly $53.7 million next year.

The proposed School Accountability Fund for Excellence (SAFE) would bring the extra $1.1 million, targeted mostly at at-risk students and based on a formula that includes factors such the number of students receiving free and reduced-price meals.

The plan also includes accountability measures, like progress reports on changes in students in learning, that are designed to make sure the new money is fulfilling its purpose.

The additional $1.1 million in SAFE funds from the state would bring the county total to $54.9 million.

But Nipps said she is wary of any requirements or restrictions that might come with the money. She said another concern is that additional state money might translate into a smaller appropriation from the County Commissioners, who approve the largest portion of the school budget.

"It can be a good (thing) and a bad thing," she said of the plan.

Although the county is among the 10 Maryland counties and Baltimore City that are to receive more than $1 million each next year under the SAFE program, its total state funding increase of 4.3 percent - nearly $2.3 million - would be tied with Anne Arundel County for third lowest in the state.

It is proposed that Frederick County will get $964,531 in SAFE money, but its overall state appropriation is expected to increase next year nearly $5 million, or a 6.3 percent increase.

The plan will be part of the state budget, which is subject to General Assembly approval, but it has already been supported by House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., D-Allegany, and state Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick.

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