- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 8, 2006

ANNAPOLIS — The House yesterday overturned Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.’s veto of a bill to stop the state from taking over some low-performing schools in Baltimore.

The House cleared the three-fifths margin required to overturn a veto, sending the measure to the Senate tomorrow, the final day of the General Assembly session.

The veto overrides are the latest moves in the ongoing struggle over the city schools between the Democrat-controlled assembly and Mr. Ehrlich and other Republicans.

Last month, the Ehrlich administration moved to intervene in some of the city’s middle and high schools. Lawmakers responded by passing a moratorium on the takeovers. That set up Mr. Ehrlich’s veto Friday, then the override attempts.

Baltimore schools are a key issue in the elections this fall, in which Mayor Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, is a top challenger in Mr. Ehrlich’s re-election bid.

Mr. O’Malley says test scores have improved, but the attempted state takeover highlighted schools still performing below federal standards.

Mr. Ehrlich has said repeatedly that politics had nothing to do with the takeover and that it was only ordered because children need a better education. But during debates yesterday on the House floor, some Baltimore lawmakers said poor children in city schools long have been political punching bags and that this is the latest round.

“Don’t tell me you love our children more than I do,” said Delegate Clarence Davis, a Baltimore Democrat who attended the city’s public schools as a child. Others called for the city to have more time to implement improvement plans.

Republicans who sided with Mr. Ehrlich said Baltimore schools have a legacy of failure that must be broken.

“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got,” said Delegate Herb McMillan, Anne Arundel Republican.

The House voted 97-42 to overturn the veto. If the Senate also overturns it, then the state takeover cannot happen for at least a year.

Two other vetoes were overridden yesterday by the House — one on a bill to set up polling places for early voting this fall and the other on a bill to prohibit Board of Regents members from raising money for political campaigns. The measures also must be overridden by the Senate before becoming law.

Republicans argued that partisan disagreements with Mr. Ehrlich are driving the overrides. They cited a panel of high-profile overrides that started the session, including a bill requiring Wal-Mart to spend more on employee health care.

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