ANNAPOLIS, JAN. 26 -- State budget analysts told Maryland legislators today that they should kill Gov. William Donald Schaefer's cherished proposal for a mathematics and science boarding school because it would be too expensive and would duplicate programs offered in local school systems.
The state would be better off, the analysts told members of the Senate's budget committee, taking money proposed for the school and distributing it to school districts around the state to bolster their own special programs for gifted students.
The financial analysts also accused Schaefer of failing to conduct a study, ordered by the legislature last year, on whether the special school is needed. Instead, the analysts said, the governor's staff has used much of the $100,000 appropriated for the study to promote the school -- by conducting trips for legislators to similar schools in other states, for instance -- and to hire a Massachusetts headhunter to begin searching for a director before the school is even approved.
The advice, a frontal attack on one of Schaefer's top priorities for the current 90-day General Assembly session, gave ammunition to lawmakers who already are receiving complaints about the proposal from parents groups and the state's main teachers union.
Schaefer contends that the proposed boarding school, which eventually would enroll 600 of the state's brightest 10th through 12th graders, probably at a site in Greenbelt, would help overcome a growing shortage of mathematicians and scientists and would help attract new high-technology companies to Maryland.
At today's committee briefing, Richard Linder, the president of Westinghouse Electric Corp. Defense Group, who led a gubernatorial task force on the school, told lawmakers, "I think this is a golden opportunity to be innovative."
Linder, whose group headquarters are in Anne Arundel County, said the school would spur Maryland's economic growth, saying, "If we're not competitive, if we're not pushing the frontiers, somebody else will pass us by."
But that point of view found no sympathizers today on the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, which would have to approve the $3.3 million in start-up costs and $10 million to prepare the campus that Schaefer has included in his budget.
"I've been looking for ways to support this thing," said Sen. Francis X. Kelly (D-Baltimore County), the committee vice chairman. "But I have to be honest with you. Logic dictates against it, and all the data we have dictates against it."
During the briefing, Steven Feinstein, an analyst in the state's Fiscal Services Department, which reports to the General Assembly, told legislators that educational circumstances in Maryland are different from those in North Carolina and Illinois, the only states that have opened math-science boarding schools. Compared to Maryland, he said, those states have relatively poor, small and rural school systems that cannot offer many advanced courses.
But in Maryland, he said, all but one of the state's 24 school systems already offer special programs for gifted and talented students.
In addition, Feinstein said Schaefer's staff had miscalculated the school's price tag. While the administration has estimated the eventual cost at $13,000 a student, the actual cost would be $15,000, the analyst said.
"We are right now serving over 60,000 students identified as gifted and talented for about $14 million. This proposal would serve about 600 students for about $9 million," he said.
"We're putting our energies, our money, to the kids who are going to do the best in life anyway," said Sen. Julian L. Lapides (D-Balti-more). "Why not take some of the slowest kids in the state and give them the kind of opportunity they will never have. That would be something Maryland could really be proud of."