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Editorial - A package we can back

January 13, 1998

Editorial - A package we can back

A new $61.5 million aid package proposed for Maryland's public schools by Gov. Parris Glendening appears to be a winner because it distributes funds on a need-based formula instead of according to an area's political clout. From what we've seen so far, this is a measure worth backing.

Glendening was under pressure to come up with a new formula because of last year's out-of-court settlement, which gives the Baltimore City schools $250 million in new money over five years.

In return the state got a measure of control over that city's school board. But resentment ran high around the state because Baltimore was one of the few areas to back Glendening during his first run for governor, and because the out-of-court settlement was seen as an invitation for other cash-strapped systems, like Prince George's County, to try the ploy themselves.

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The new formula provides aid based on the number of children receiving free or reduced-price lunches and on the number of students for whom English is a second language. P.G. County will get $16.2 million of the cash, including $5.5 million to help certify the 12 percent of its teachers who lack full credentials now.

For Washington County, the windfall is less - about $1.1 million - which is about the cost of a reading and math initiative for elementary students that was cut last year due to budget constraints.

That wouldn't be a bad use of the cash this year, because if it produces a generation of readers who pass the habit onto their own children, it could eventually be phased out.

And as long as we're making suggestions, we'd like to suggest that as long as Maryland taxpayers are going to spend millions helping people learn English, the state's lawmakers ought to go ahead and make it the state's official language.

We've heard all the arguments about how this will lead to hurt feelings and low self-esteem among people for whom English is a second language, but we believe the alternative - providing a variety of official documents and services in other languages - will lead to chaos. Make English Maryland's official language now, while it's still politically possible.

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