BALTIMORE, JULY 24 -- Maryland State School Superintendent Joseph L. Shilling said today it would cost the state $328 million next year to start phasing in an ambitious strategy he has proposed for improving public education.

Shilling affixed a price tag to his initiatives for the first time as educators throughout the state complained that many of his ideas would strain their school systems' budgets and their energies.

Encouraged by Gov. William Donald Schaefer to think big in designing educational improvements, Shilling has recommended a dramatic 15-point plan. For instance, he suggested that the state add 20 days to the school year, furnish preschool classes for all disadvantaged 4-year-olds, double the number of school computers and raise the compulsory attendance age from 16 to 18.

At a hearing today before the State Board of Education, teachers, administrators and lobbyists indicated support for many of the ideas -- in principle. But from rich school systems and poor ones alike, educators complained about the cost and the potential burden.

"{We} feel we have jumped on a merry-go-round that is gaining speed," said Wayne Carmean, assistant superintendent in Cecil County, a 12,000-student school system in northeast Maryland. "Smaller systems and less-wealthy systems will need more hands to do the work you are proposing."

Added Robert Shoenberg, president of the Montgomery County Board of Education, "We are concerned that local school systems cannot afford to implement these strategies." Shoenberg said there is a limit to how many changes "even the largest systems can attend to and still do a good job."

But state legislators said the state can't finance all of the changes, either. "It's almost impossible to conceive where $328 million on top of what we're already spending would come from . . . at a time when we're concerned about a recession, increased unemployment, and {welfare} rolls going up," said Del. Nancy C. Kopp (D-Montgomery), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee's education subcommittee.

Shoenberg was one of several speakers who contended that Shilling has put too much emphasis on standardized tests. Other speakers said it would be counterproductive to require students to remain in school until they reach 18, unless the state also redoubles its efforts to work with hard-to-educate teenagers. Still others said that the lengthening of the school year from 180 to 200 days would be expensive and not necessarily the best way to improve education.

But the speakers' most consistent message dealt with money and its proper source. "Clearly, these are state proposals, and they must be funded primarily by the state," said Mark Woodard, of the Maryland Association of Counties.

After the hearing, Shilling disagreed. "I don't think we can hand the whole bill to the state," he told reporters.

He said he believes the state should spend $328 million next year to begin implementing his proposals. Currently, Maryland spends $1.4 billion on public education.

Shilling said he believes about two-thirds of the increase should be spread across the state, according to Maryland's current formula for alloting education subsidies.

The remaining $100 million, he said, should be devoted to the state's eight poorest jurisdictions. As a result, Shilling said, relatively affluent schools systems in suburban Washington, such as Montgomery and Howard counties, would end up absorbing most of the initiatives' costs.

Shilling said he expects the state school board to pare the budget recommendation before deciding next month how much money to seek for the next fiscal year.

After the hearing, the board's new president, Robert C. Embry Jr., said he was uncertain what the board would end up recommending.

Schaefer, who has praised Shilling's proposal in the past, was out of town today and unavailable for comment. His press secretary, Paul E. Schurick, said, "The plan will not be rejected because it costs too much . . . . Once it's been accepted or rejected on its merits, then let's move on to the affordability issue."Staff writer Richard Tapscott contributed to this report.