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Morgan lobbies for more

January 25, 2007|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

ANNAPOLIS - Washington County Public Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan asked the state's governor, comptroller and treasurer for as much as $13.7 million more in school funding Wednesday, but she wasn't alone.

Hundreds of other school and government officials, county by county, appealed to the state's Board of Public Works at the State House during an annual event.

Washington County asked for $20.4 million for capital projects in fiscal 2008, but the state's Interagency Committee on School Construction recommended $6.7 million.

Morgan urged the Board of Public Works to reconsider, citing the county's high achievement despite aging schools, surging growth and low per-pupil wealth and spending.

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Almost all of the $20.4 million was to go toward replacing Pangborn Elementary School in Hagerstown and building Westfields Elementary School along Sharpsburg Pike.

But instead of $10.2 million, as requested, Westfields got $2.0 million. The $9.2 million sought for Pangborn was trimmed to $4.7 million.

The Board of Public Works - made up of Gov. Martin O'Malley, Comptroller Peter Franchot and Treasurer Nancy Kopp - acted as an appeals board Wednesday, as school systems argued for funding requests they didn't get.

In most cases, school officials were joined by county leaders and state lawmakers representing their region, many of whom added their own pleas.

The process is known to many inside and outside government as the "Beg-a-thon," although O'Malley called it a "Hope-a-thon."

Morgan told the board the current Pangborn Elementary School, built in 1955, has 11 portable classrooms in use. It also has high rates of students who move from school to school, are learning English as a second language or qualify for free or reduced-price meals.

The Westfields school is needed to catch up with rapid growth near Interstate 70 and Sharpsburg Pike, Morgan said. In 2008, enrollment at adjacent schools is expected to range from 129 percent to 135 percent of state-rated capacity, she said.

Five members of Washington County's delegation stood with Morgan as she made her pitch.

Boyd Michael III, the school system's assistant superintendent for school operations, and Rob Rollins, the system's acting director of facilities, planning and development, also were there.

Before the meeting, Michael said three Washington County elementary school construction projects - Pangborn, Westfields and Maugansville - are estimated to cost $25 million to $27 million apiece.

About three-fourths of the Maugansville funding has been secured, but less than half for Pangborn and Westfields, not including what's in the proposed 2008 state budget, Michael said.

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