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Lobby the governor to get fair share of school money

January 10, 2006

When the Washington County school system's director of facilities management heard that Gov. Robert Ehrlich was proposing a big increase in school construction money, he reacted immediately.

"That's excellent," said Rodney Turnbough.

We agree - if the money goes to those counties that are experiencing rapid growth.

Unfortunately, this is an election year and the Ehrlich administration will be pressured to allocate money based on where the votes are, as opposed to where the need is greatest.

Ehrlich promised a need-based approach last Thursday when he made the announcement.

"We're going to pump money into poorer communities and, in many cases, neglected schools," the governor said.

Further, he said, the funding commitments mandated in the 2002 law based on the recommendations of the Thornton Commission will be kept, even though Ehrlich's preferred funding source - slot machines - has not been legalized.

The Thornton promise will be easier to keep because Maryland has an estimated surplus of $1.7 billion. And while there are other interests competing for that cash, there are few constituent groups with more clout than the parents of schoolchildren.

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So how does Washington County ensure that it will get a fair share of this construction cash?

By speaking up early and repeating the message often. The county supported Ehrlich is his race against Kathleen Kennedy-Townsend and the local delegation has backed his proposed legalization of slot machines at the state's horse tracks.

This county currently has an inventory of aging schools with a list of maintenance projects that were delayed for years because previous boards of county commissioners didn't commit enough matching money.

Some letters to the governor from parents of students attending those schools wouldn't do any harm. Nor would it hurt if a few busloads of parents took a trip to Annapolis and lobbied on behalf of school funding.

If you would like to express your opinion before any bus trips are scheduled, you may write to the governor at 100 State Circle, Annapolis, MD 21401-1925.

The governor's Web site says he does not have a traditional e-mail address, but e-mail can be directed to him by first going to the site at www.gov.state.md.us.

If you do write, remember that even though these are your tax dollars, requests for help are likely to get a better response than demands and accusations.

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