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Boosting state school aid


TWO FACTS are abundantly clear in the protracted dispute over state school aid for Baltimore City.

First, the city's classrooms still lack the resources to provide children with a decent public education. And second, the state has failed to abide by the terms of a 1996 consent decree to give the city the funds it needs to do the job.

Indeed, Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Joseph H.H. Kaplan says the state hasn't even made "a reasonable down payment" on what it owes city kids. The city school board sought $49 million last January for specific classroom improvements; the governor put up just $8 million.

Even adding in other extra state education aid to the city this year, the governor failed to come close to matching that $49 million request. Recent failed negotiations only showed that the state still refuses to recognize its constitutional obligation to Baltimore schoolchildren.

That's unfortunate. Baltimore City and other struggling school systems in Maryland desperately need much more state aid than they are receiving. Yet the governor's office continues to view this more as a budgetary problem than an education crisis.

Under the state's constitution, Maryland -- not the subdivisions -- is responsible for providing every child with a "thorough and efficient" education. This isn't happening right now. The system is broken and needs fixing. Only Governor Glendening can make that happen.

Poorer jurisdictions in Maryland must receive more financial help. Baltimore's predicament is by far the worst. The local school board's improvement plan has the backing of the state's school superintendent. All it is lacking is the resources from Annapolis.

That's where the governor must take positive, cooperative steps to show his commitment. Halfway measures no longer will suffice.

Maryland's underachieving students need the governor's help. As Mr. Glendening himself has said on countless occasions, providing all children in this state with a quality education is the key to ensuring their future.

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