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Morgan, other educators seek more state money

January 31, 2008|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

ANNAPOLIS -- Like dozens of other educators, Washington County Public Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan made her pitch in Annapolis on Wednesday for more state funding.

Morgan and other Washington County school officials appeared before the state Board of Public Works - the governor, the treasurer and the comptroller - one county at a time.

School officials from throughout Maryland descend on the State House once a year as part of a process nicknamed the "Beg-a-thon."

This year, they lobbied for portions of $108 million in public-school construction money that hasn't been allocated, according to Gov. Martin O'Malley's office.

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Overall, O'Malley has proposed spending $333 million in state money on school construction in fiscal year 2009.

O'Malley's proposed capital budget included $8,567,640 for four Washington County elementary school projects: Rockland Woods, Pangborn, Greenbrier and Maugansville.

Morgan appealed to the Board of Public Works for an additional $2,817,000.

Most of that - $2,477,000 - would be used for the new Rockland Woods Elementary School off Sharpsburg Pike.

Morgan said the school would alleviate crowding at five other schools.

"We need the additional funding to finish out the project," she said.

The other $340,000 she asked for would pay to replace heating, ventilation and air conditioning at Fountain Rock Elementary School.

Morgan also asked for planning approval for a new Antietam Academy and for a new Eastern Primary School.

Morgan told the board that Washington County is succeeding despite significant growth in enrollment and with half of its school buildings having gone 30 years without upgrades.

The format for this year's "Beg-a-thon" was changed at O'Malley's request.

Previously, representatives of each school system were joined by their state representatives and other education supporters, creating a parade-like lobbying effort in front of the Board of Public Works.

O'Malley asked that only school officials appear before the board this year - although Comptroller Peter Franchot, in a separate letter, invited elected officials to join in, too.

The streamlined format allowed the board to talk more with school officials this year.

O'Malley asked Morgan how Washington County cut its dropout rate from 5.5 percent when Morgan joined the district in 2001 to a little under 2 percent.

She named a variety of methods, including dropout prevention specialists, as well as social workers who pick up children at their homes and drive them to school.

Afterward, Morgan said she thought her presentation was effective. "They appeared to be really listening," she said.

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