Legislators and government lobbyists from Prince George's County and Baltimore said this week that they are joining forces to try to win another significant increase in state educational aid.
This latest legislative push, geared to begin in earnest when Gov. Harry Hughes delivers his proposed budget to the General Assembly in January, has received a skeptical response from some county officials.
"Obviously, if we could get additional money for education in Prince George's County, we would be very pleased," County Executive Parris N. Glendening said. "But at least, as of the moment, there is no real movement in that direction at all."
In April, the General Assembly voted to boost state aid to education by $616 million over five years, the largest such funding increase in the state's history. And a governor's task force, which spurred the April legislation, this week recommended that even more state money be diverted to local public schools under the same plan.
The current program created an equalizing formula that pays out more funds to less-wealthy jurisdictions. Prince George's County, for example, receives $7.74 million over five years under the program while Montgomery County gets $1.76 million.
The task force, chaired by former U.S. attorney general Benjamin R. Civiletti, said in a 53-page report that by approving the new, more expensive recommendation, the state also would allow funding increases to continue beyond the current five-year period.
Civiletti said yesterday that he would like to see the statewide plan implemented even if the money to fund it is not available for two or three more years.
"We're asking that the concept be acted upon this session," he said.
The major beneficiary of the task force's recommendations would be Baltimore, which has requested that a $10 million special allocation of extra state money called "density aid" be phased out over the next several years rather than ended completely this year as planned.
Hughes spokesman Louis G. Panos said yesterday that the governor has agreed to consider Baltimore's request but is not optimistic about any statewide increase this year.
Prince George's County State Sen. Frank J. Komenda, who sat on the task force, also is not optimistic.
"I don't think it's high on our lists [of priorities] because, frankly, I don't believe it's going to come through," Komenda said.
Yet State Sen. Thomas V. Mike Miller, the chairman of the county's Senate delegation, said that Baltimore and Prince George's are already working to get the extra money.
"I've spoken with people in the Baltimore mayor's office, and they feel the time is right to make a significant push" for increased funding."
But county school superintendent John A. Murphy, who said the schools will need as much as $29 million next year, agreed with Glendening that amending the state aid formula once again is not likely to gain state approval this year.