County officials should expand before- and after-school child care to all county elementary schools through public-private partnerships that would eliminate taxpayers' costs, the Anne Arundel Trade Council has recommended.

The business group released findings yesterday ofa year-long study of School Aged Child Care programs in place at 17 of 76 elementary schools. Another 10 schools plan to start programs during the coming school year.

Because the board has failed to offer much-needed programs at theother 49 schools, county officials, rather than the Board of Education, should coordinate day care, the report said. It also suggests thecounty consider subsidizing day care for low-income families.

Executive Director Jeannette Wessel said Trade Council members consider day care one of the business community's greatest needs as more and more women enter the work force. The percentage of working mothers in Anne Arundel County is among the highest in the state, she said.

"It's a big issue for working people," Wessel said. "It affects productivity, absenteeism. It has a big impact on the labor force."

The group focused on the program that private operators run at county schools because it seemed an ideal solution to caring for school-aged children, Wessel said.

The program uses existing school buildings and can support itself through its fees, she said.

Because of the number of single-parent families or in which both parents work, programs would pay for themselves at every county school, the study found.

The greatest obstacle to starting new programs has been the veto power of principals at individual schools, the trade council said.

School Superintendent Larry L. Lorton was unavailable for comment yesterday on the Trade Council's recommendations.

Jo Ann Tollenger, school board president, said she did not recall council members previously bringing the issue of day care before the board.

"We certainlyare willing to listen to anyone who has an idea that would make the quality of life better," Tollenger said. "I don't think the board hasbeen unresponsive to the (day care) issue."

The Trade Council's education committee -- headed by Margaret Anderson, an assistant vice president of Maryland National Bank -- based its evaluation on information from the school board, the county School Aged Child Care coordinators and a county child-care task force report.

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