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3 local schools would get aid

January 31, 2001

3 local schools would get aid



By LAURA ERNDE / Staff Writer


ANNAPOLIS - Three Washington County private schools will get state tax money to buy textbooks this year.

St. Maria Goretti High School, St. Mary School and Surrey Child Care Center are getting a total of $38,700. The savings of $60 per student will be passed on to parents.

Del. John P. Donoghue, who voted last year to approve the $6 million state program, will benefit because he has four children in the local Catholic schools.

Donoghue, D-Washington, said he and other parents who send their children to private schools deserved the break because they pay tuition in addition to taxes.

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The textbook money is coming out of the state's tobacco settlement.

Nearly all of the Catholic schools in the state qualified for the grants, which will lower each student's annual textbook bill by about $60, he said.

"It's a great help. Anything helps that out-of-pocket expense," said Charles Wainwright, director of Surrey Child Care Center in Hagerstown.

Since textbooks are included in the cost of tuition at the licensed nursery school, the money will go back to the parents of 2- to 5-year-olds as a credit.

There are state regulations on what kind of textbooks can be purchased with the money.

Some private schools in Washington County didn't apply for the grants.

Broadfording Christian Academy Principal R. William Wyand said he didn't want to change the way he evaluates textbooks to comply with the program's standards. And the school of 266 students likes to keep a distinct separation of church and state, he said.

"I really don't want to become dependent on government funds. We're always a little leery of the strings that could be attached when you take government money," he said.

Grace Academy Administrator Dennis Hoffman, whose school has 287 students, said the state program was too complicated and few of the school's books qualified.

Gov. Parris Glendening has earmarked $8 million for private school textbooks in his proposed 2002 budget. In that case, the money would come out of the state's general fund.

Support for the program seems to be waning among members of the Maryland General Assembly.

Last year six of the eight local lawmakers supported the program, which was approved by a narrow margin.

Donoghue said he hasn't made up his mind yet this year.

Del. Robert A. McKee, R-Washington, said he won't vote for it a second time.

Some local lawmakers may not even get a chance to vote on the issue, which is likely to be killed by the House Appropriations and House Ways and Means committees.

"I almost want the opportunity to vote against it because it's such an ill-conceived idea. This one particularly because it's coming out of the general fund, competing directly with public schools," said Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington.

Shank said he supports other ways of helping parents who send children to private schools, such as giving them tax credits and allowing private schools to enter into a buying consortium.

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