ANNAPOLIS – Gov. Parris Glendening’s plan to give Montgomery County schools an extra $10 million in his next budget was hailed by the county’s delegates, but they said they hope to bring home still more.
County delegation members said they will push for a significant increase in last year’s $38 million in school construction funding from the state — possibly to as much as $60 million.
The $10 million is part of a $61.5 million school aid package unveiled by the governor last week. Only Prince George’s County received a larger share.
“It’s a major commitment to education for Montgomery County and it is the outgrowth of three years of hard work by the Montgomery County delegation,” Del. Kumar Barve, D-Montgomery, said.
But some lawmakers questioned the wisdom of a spending spree, despite a projected $260 million budget surplus this year.
“While I like kids as much as anybody else, we’ve been throwing money at the education system with both hands for three years,” said Del. Raymond Beck, R-Montgomery.
“I think it’s time to stop and say, `Now that we’ve given you all this money, what can we expect in the line of improved education?'” Beck said. “I frankly don’t know that our education system is getting any better for all the money” that has been spent on it, he said.
Beck said he will introduce a bill that would redistribute the surplus in the form of a tax refund in 1998 of $100 to every Maryland taxpayer, $200 for couples.
Del. Cheryl Kagan, D-Montgomery, a Gaithersburg middle school teacher when the legislature is not in session, said the extra money is needed and will be well-spent.
She said Montgomery County serves a much higher percentage of underprivileged children than is popularly assumed.
She said the extra money is needed for English as a Second Language classes, raising nutritional standards of school lunches and sparking other programs for students with special needs.
Sen. Leonard Teitelbaum, D-Montgomery, would like to see more cash for what he called the county’s “backlog on social services.” He pointed to families with handicapped children who require help paying for special care during workday hours as direly in need.
Del. Adrienne Mandel, D-Montgomery, said she will sponsor legislation that addresses “road rage.” Del. Gilbert Genn, D- Montgomery, will push for stiffer penalties for people driving on suspended licenses, including impoundment and immobilization of their cars.
While the mysterious Pfiesteria piscicida outbreak is less of a direct issue for Montgomery County residents, the health of the Chesapeake Bay is still on the minds of her constituents, Del. Nancy Kopp, D-Montgomery, said.
Sen. Christopher Van Hollen, D-Montgomery, said he will push for legislation requiring a 40 percent reduction in the amount of nutrient run-off, such as chicken manure, into the bay. High levels of nutrients have been cited as a possible trigger for pfiesteria.