By Sen. Roy Dyson

[ Senator Dyson's Newletter ]

Expect the 1998 Maryland General Assembly to be the year of the schools. I know it will be so for me. I am hopeful that out of the next legislature, which is just a little more than two months away, will come some significant progress to increase educational funding for our schools.

Governor Parris Glendening recently proposed an infusion of $250 million in state aid to Prince George's County. Then Maryland School Superintendent Dr. Nancy Grasmick responded with her own view that whatever extra money is available should be spread around the 24 school systems because each system has wants and needs.

I support Dr. Grasmick's position. We can't every year throw money at one school system as we did last year for Baltimore City. Our funding should be designed to create equal opportunity for every student in every public school in the state to receive a good, basic education. Rich counties can provide the frills on their own.

The system of providing state aid to local school systems should be a system based on the needs of the school systems and the financial wherewithal of each county to fund them. It should not be a system based on which county has the most voters. That's the way it used to be. And that was the system which got the state into a predicament of having disproportionate educational opportunities from county to county. We've gone beyond that. We should not retreat.

I will be fighting all the way to see that the two fast growing counties which I represent get their fair slice out of the pie. Calvert and St. Mary's counties have huge funding needs, but they pale in comparison to some of the wishes and desires of the much larger counties. We especially need school infrastructure monies to accommodate the growth which is occurring in our area.

Ironically on the first day of the legislature last year the Maryland Board of Public Works, which approves school funding, heard appeals of cuts by the State Interagency Committee for School Construction (which makes recommendations to the Board of Public Works). I spoke in support of restoring funding to St. Mary's and Calvert schools.

This year the counties will be back at the table with major school construction funding needs. These are not frills but necessities. St. Mary's is asking for $14.1 million, of which about half is reimbursement for monies forward funded by St. Mary's County for the Chopticon High School renovation/expansion project.

Other St. Mary's projects include Esperanza M.S. expansion/renovation, relocatibles for Esperanza, a new HVAC system for Town Creek Elem., a new roof for Green Holly Elem., and a pre-K addition for Leonardtown
Elem. Although no state outlay is required, the county will be asking for planning approval for additions to Leonardtown H.S., Banneker Elem., and Margaret Brent M.S.

Calvert County will be asking for $4.4 million in state monies for the next fiscal year. Most will go to construction of South Central Elem. The two other projects are mechanical improvements at Appeal Elem. And renovation of labs at Calvert H.S. Planning okay will be sought for a new middle school in the southern part of the county.

As I did this past January, I will go to bat for these projects before the Board of Public Works next year. It will be reprehensible if one or two large school systems get a big bundle of new money while we here in Southern Maryland can't get the basics for brick and mortar.

You too can get involved. Write the governor and let him know that you support your local school system's requests. If I felt these were unnecessary I would let you know. But the history in our area is that we only ask for what we need. In the past the requests have been backed up with solid data. Usually the answer at the state level is support for the concept but the reality being not enough money to go around. This year that doesn't appear to be the case. We have extra monies. Let's spend it wisely on our future. Let's spend it on the kids.

[ Senator Dyson's Newletter ]