Students at trade schools would be eligible for some of the $2.7 million in senatorial scholarships handed out each year under a bill approved yesterday by the Maryland Senate.
Senatorial scholarships, which range from $200 to $1,500 a year, now can be given only to students who attend colleges and universities. Each senator receives $58,000 in scholarship funds to distribute during the officeholder's four-year term.
The bill, which was approved on a 28-to-19 vote, now goes to the House of Delegates for consideration.
Sen. John Bambacus (R-Allegany) called the current policy an elitist one that says "only those students who seek a college education should get senatorial scholarships."
"I think we should treat all high school students alike," he said.
Sen. Barbara Hoffman (D-Baltimore), the sponsor, said the present law makes second-class citizens of high school graduates who want to attend one of more than 200 private schools that offer training in fields such as business, computers and electronics.
Some senators opposed the bill, saying there isn't enough money for college students who need senatorial scholarships and that more money should be put into a separate $200,000-a-year program that provides scholarships just for trade school students.
"You don't solve that problem by legalizing a raid on other scholarship funds," said Sen. John Cade (R-Anne Arundel).