Gov. William Donald Schaefer surprised lawmakers and education officials yesterday by backing a new state formula for funding education, a proposal he termed "fair" but which would slash millions of dollars from Baltimore schools.
The governor said during a news conference that he would support efforts by Montgomery County lawmakers to change the way the state distributes $1.2 billion in aid to public schools. Instead of awarding the money based on total enrollment, as is done now, the funding would be based on average daily 'D attendance.
"I support that. . . . I think it's fair," Mr. Schaefer said. "It should put pressure on the principals and on the superintendent to make sure the kids go to school."
The measure would send an additional $1.5 million next year to Montgomery County, where attendance is high. But it would hurt four jurisdictions, including Baltimore, where educators say poverty has contributed to lower school attendance.
Mr. Schaefer, a former Baltimore mayor, conceded that his native city would take "a hit" under the proposal but said that the city would lose only about $4 million. "That would not hurt the system that much," he said.
But that's just what Baltimore would lose next year. The proposed change in formula would be phased in over four years and when fully implemented, the city would lose much more.
If such legislation were fully in place this year, Baltimore would lose about $17 million of the $239 million it expects from the state's main school aid program, called Action Plan for Excellence (APEX).
Despite the governor's endorsement, lawmakers -- even those who support the measure -- doubt that it could gain enough support to win legislative approval. Some legislators speculated that Mr. Schaefer's support might be aimed at bashing Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, whom he dislikes.
City educators reacted with dismay to the governor's comments.
"It would be devastating for us," said Baltimore school Superintendent Walter G. Amprey, who told legislative leaders last month that he was trying to boost lagging attendance in city schools.
Three counties also would see reductions in school aid: Prince George's, Somerset and Cecil. Should the legislation win
approval, school systems would be affected in the school year that begins in September 1994.
Legislative leaders doubt the proposed aid change has much of a chance of passage because of the opposition from Baltimore and Prince George's lawmakers. "I don't think there's any likelihood," said House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr., a Kent County Democrat.
Other lawmakers said the governor promised Montgomery legislators in a meeting several weeks ago that he would offer them a raise in school aid. The county was hurt last fall in a special session when the legislature voted to eliminate state payment of Social Security taxes for teachers, librarians and community college employees.
SCHOOL AID CHANGE
Under the proposed amendment, some districts would gain or lose aid beginning with the September 1994 school year.
District ........... Difference
Anne Arundel ....... $1,281,312
Baltimore City ..... -4,309,272
Baltimore .............. 74,512
Carroll ............... 330,661
Harford ............... 202,022
Howard ................ 723,016
Montgomery .......... 1,563,541
Prince George's .... -1,209,330
So: Md. Dept. Fiscal Services