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Parochial school aid is 'not likely,' says Maryland Governor.

Despite an aggressive lobbying effort by the Maryland Catholic Conference, Gov. Parris N. Glendening says parochial school aid is "not likely" this year because of budgetary constraints.

Roman Catholic officials organized a letter-writing campaign that brought more than 6,000 letters to the Democratic governor's desk. Church school activists hoped to win more taxpayer funding for transportation, health services, textbooks and technology aid. A small group of Jewish parents from the Baltimore area and Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C., also joined the effort.

But in December Glendening prepared a letter to Catholic school parents turning down the request. Glendening said he is personally "very sensitive to the constant financial sacrifices" private school parents make but added, "Unfortunately, the constraints on the state's budget will not permit us to undertake the new major aid programs you have requested."

Glendening did attempt to throw a bone to parochial school parents. In the letter he offered to allow private schools to participate in a state program whereby private business use their own funds, equipment and staff to wire schools for Internet access. Wrote Glendening, "I have directed my chief of staff to work with interested ... schools to explore whether we can duplicate that effort for your children."

Catholic school officials say that's not enough and have vowed not to give up pressing for more expansive forms of aid. "If the answer is no, then ... the governor needs to understand we will become more vocal, more aggressive," Ronald J. Valenti, superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Baltimore, told the Baltimore Sun. "We have made our point known. You just can't dismiss it by saying there's no more money." Officials with the Maryland Federation of Catholic Schools said they plan to take the issue to the state legislature.

Mary Ellen Russell, associate director for education of the Maryland Catholic Conference, told the Sun her organization would "look more closely at the [state] budget to identify how such services could be funded." Russell said parochial and other private schools would like to get $14 million in state aid, adding it would be used to buy computers and provide math and science textbooks.

In other news about parochial school aid:

* Catholic and fundamentalist Christian school leaders have joined forces in Iowa to push for a big increase in the state's education tax credit plan. Current law allows both public and private school parents to take a $100 tax credit for tuition and other school costs. The Iowa Catholic Conference has proposed increasing it to $500 for elementary school students and $1,000 for high school students. Public education advocates have formed a coalition -- Iowans in Support of Public Education -- to oppose the move.

Gov. Terry Branstad (R) is an advocate of parochial school aid but has said the requested increase is too much. "I would like to see us increase the tuition tax credit," he told the Des Moines Register, "but something that would be more realistic in terms of the size of the increase." Branstad later proposed a boost to $200.

* An organization formed four years ago by the Catholic Archdiocese of New York has announced that securing voucher aid is its long-term goal. Officials with the Catholic School Network say they will also work on increasing state textbook aid and transportation subsidies.

Speaking of tuition assistance, James Mahoney, coordinator of the group, told Catholic New York, "We know it's going to be a long haul, but we want to keep it in the forefront of people's minds."
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Title Annotation:Parris N. Glendening
Publication:Church & State
Date:Feb 1, 1997
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