ANNAPOLIS, JAN. 20 -- Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer, who declared in his State of the State address a week ago that "this is the year for higher education," appears to be backing up his claim -- at least most of it -- in cash.
The budget he released today contains an ambitious array of college initiatives, including bigger state scholarships, a new way of allotting money to community colleges, a plan to help families save for college tuition and an effort to recruit eminent professors to the state's campuses.
But despite all this, the budget contains what legislative leaders are calling a glaring omission.
Nowhere to be found is a special $50 million reserve fund for the colleges and universities -- a fund that Schaefer and Lt. Gov. Melvin A. Steinberg have said for two months would form part of their strategy to improve higher education.
"The governor promised $50 million that is not there," said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Prince George's). "I went around the state telling people about the commitment to higher education, and I don't see the money."
Steinberg, assigned by Schaefer to devise a new way of governing the schools, explained today that it was too late to include the money two weeks ago when he and the governor finally resolved an open disagreement over the best way to restructure the college system. "The budget went to bed the middle of December. The ball game was over," Steinberg said.
He said the administration would include the special college fund in a supplemental budget request to the General Assembly later in the 90-day legislative session. But he said it would be "in a range anywhere from $15 million to $20 million," rather than $50 million.
Lawmakers said that in light of their self-imposed ceiling on spending, they were doubtful that Schaefer will find enough money to create the special college fund. "He has no way to deliver," Miller said.
In spite of the omission, college officials and Maryland state school Superintendent David W. Hornbeck said today that the governor had been generous in his recommended spending on education.
His fiscal 1989 budget includes $79 million for the second installment of a five-year plan to increase state aid to public schools.
It contains $13.5 million to start planning and building a public boarding school that Schaefer is proposing for high school students with unusual talents in math and science. Schaefer wants the legislature to approve the school in time for it to open in September 1989, probably at a Greenbelt middle school.
And it contains $3.25 million for an effort to prevent teen-agers from dropping out of school by giving them counseling, jobs, remedial classes and community volunteer work. Hornbeck said the state money would be combined with $10 million in federal job-training funds.
He said the program eventually could serve 3,000 students, starting in ninth grade, primarily in school systems with high dropout rates and a concentration of poor students.
The governor also included $6.5 million, the same amount as last year, for the magnet schools intended for desegregation in Prince George's County.
Overall, the budget recommends a $57 million, or 10 percent, increase for higher education, a percentage point more than the budget as a whole.
The University of Maryland-College Park would receive a particularly large increase, including $5 million to offset a reduction in its undergraduate enrollment, $2 million to improve its engineering, natural science and computer science programs and $1 million for superconductivity research.
Schaefer also is recommending $500,000 to design a classroom building at Shady Grove, delighting Montgomery County officials. The building will be used for classes in engineering, computers and sciences.
The governor has taken the advice of the states' community colleges, agreeing to abandon the practice of determining state aid almost entirely based on enrollment. The new method, which administrators believe will help in an era of stable and declining enrollments, will give more money to small schools and those in poor communities.
As a result, the Community College of Baltimore would receive the biggest increase -- 17 percent -- while community colleges in Montgomery County would get an increase of 4 percent and those in Prince George's would get an increase of 3 percent.
Schaefer also has proposed $500,000 for a tuition savings plan in which the state would pay 1 percent interest per year on families' private savings for college.