ANNAPOLIS, JAN. 7 -- Gov. William Donald Schaefer and Lt. Gov. Melvin A. Steinberg, seemingly at odds for weeks over how to overhaul the governing system for colleges and universities in Maryland, today announced a compromise plan to present to the legislature next week.
Under their proposal, the state board of education would be replaced by a higher education commission with greater authority over all public, private and community colleges. The commission would coordinate academic programs throughout the state, including those at private colleges, and could have the authority to deny funds to schools that do not cooperate in efforts to reduce the duplication of programs.
A "superboard" of regents would be created, subordinate to the commission, to replace two boards that now govern 11 of the state's 13 four-year colleges and universities. The two remaining schools, Morgan State University and St. Mary's College, which have sought to preserve their independence, would keep their governing boards.
Restructuring the higher education governance system is the Schaefer administration's priority for the 90-day General Assembly session, which begins Wednesday. Schaefer has said added funding for higher education is contingent on changing the system.
The issue is significant to the Washington suburbs because it could affect College Park's status as the flagship campus of the University of Maryland.
Capping months of bickering among politicians and educators, Schaefer announced the compromise at a news conference with Steinberg, but left it to the lieutenant governor to explain the details. Both men said that reports of a rift between them over the education issue have been overblown, and that in recent meetings they discovered that their differences could be easily resolved.
In public comments in recent weeks, Schaefer has insisted that all 13 of the state's four-year colleges be governed by a single board, a plan developed by the presidents and chancellors of the 11 schools that would report to the superboard under the compromise. Schaefer said he wanted the reorganization before pumping $50 million in special funds into the system.
Steinberg said two weeks ago that he would not lobby for the superboard plan because he did not think it had much chance of passage in the legislature. In endorsing an amended version of that plan today, Steinberg suggested that those chances had been strengthened by allowing Morgan State and St. Mary's to remain autonomous.
The proposed legislation, Steinberg said, will contain language ensuring that the College Park campus remains the flagship of the university system and will require that it come up with proposals within six months to a year to upgrade its academic program. The legislation would also require the superboard to come up with plans for a comprehensive university system in Baltimore.
With Schaefer at his side, Steinberg said that "the governor and the lieutenant governor of this state -- when we finally reach a position -- will always speak with one voice."
House Appropriations Chairman Charles J. Ryan (D-Prince George's) said he likes the compromise because it will allow better overall management of all state campuses. He had been critical of Steinberg's original proposal because it would have made only modest changes in the system.
It was too soon to tell today how the legislature would react, becauseleaders had not been briefed.
However, a confrontation could be in the works. Cade, Miller and Ryan said they think the legislature would have a hand in overseeing the $50 million expenditure Schaefer has proposed adding to the $613 million now spent on higher education. Steinberg and legislative aide David Iannucci insisted that the governor would have complete discretion over how the money is spent.