Leggett, Baker attack Ehrlich on lack of commitment to school funding plan

By John Wagner and Miranda S. Spivack
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, October 6, 2010; 10:27 PM

The two Democrats likely to lead Montgomery and Prince George's counties next year criticized former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. on Wednesday for refusing to commit to an education plan that would send tens of millions of additional dollars to those jurisdictions.

Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) has promised to continue funding the program, which next year would send $127 million to 13 school systems where education costs are particularly high because of needy students, the cost of living and other factors. Montgomery is set to receive nearly $32 million in aid, and Prince George's would get nearly $39 million.

Not getting the money "will have a devastating impact," Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) said at a news conference at Seabrook Elementary School in Lanham, where he was joined by presumptive Prince George's County Executive-elect Rushern L. Baker III (D).

On Wednesday, Ehrlich (R) largely stood by comments in an Associated Press interview last week, saying it was too soon to tell whether the state could afford the initiative. "If the dollars are there, we'll take a look at it," he said, adding that "this election is about transparency and being upfront with people."

The sparring about school funding came as the governor's race showed signs of accelerating in the Washington suburbs.

President Obama is scheduled to appear Thursday with O'Malley and other Democrats at a rally at Bowie State University in Prince George's, and Ehrlich will host a luncheon for Montgomery County Women for Ehrlich. Ehrlich will also air his campaign's first TV ads in the expensive Washington area market, arriving two weeks behind O'Malley.

Ehrlich said Wednesday that his standing in the heavily Democratic Washington region has been hurt by O'Malley's ads, which he blamed for his slippage in a few recent statewide polls that showed O'Malley leading.

"That gets fixed tomorrow," Ehrlich told a business group in Baltimore County, where he is running much stronger against O'Malley than in the Washington region.

Thornton funding

Ehrlich, a former congressman from Baltimore County, dismissed Leggett's and Baker's efforts as partisan Democratic politics, saying that O'Malley "knows he needs the Washington suburbs because he's getting hammered up here."

Ehrlich aides later distributed a document to reporters detailing record education funding increases under Ehrlich and advances in student progress in Montgomery and Prince George's during his four years in office, which ended after O'Malley defeated him in 2006.

Leggett said Ehrlich's stance on the "geographic cost of education index" is "not the way to endear oneself" to Washington area voters.

Leggett said Ehrlich had suggested the spending cuts "so cavalierly, without thinking of the ramifications of what that means. That is an irresponsible position."

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