- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 6, 2006

BALTIMORE (AP) — Federal education funds to Maryland could be jeopardized if the General Assembly blocks the state school board’s plan to bring in outside managers for 11 failing middle and high schools in Baltimore, according to a letter from the U.S. Department of Education.

Maryland receives about $171 million in federal education aid.

The letter, dated Wednesday, was sent to state schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick by Deputy Education Secretary Raymond Simon, the Baltimore Sun reported.

The letter said that if Maryland is prevented by the Baltimore school district from carrying out its responsibility under the federal law, federal funds are in jeopardy.

Last week, the Maryland State Board of Education used the federal No Child Left Behind Act to justify taking over four failing inner-city high schools and to order Baltimore officials to find a third party to run seven poorly performing middle schools.

Days later, the Democrat-controlled General Assembly approved a one-year moratorium on the state plan.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, said Saturday that he will veto the legislation, but votes by legislators indicate that there is enough opposition to the state board’s plan to override it.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., Prince George’s Democrat, called the letter a partisan threat and vowed that there would be no retreat.

“This is all orchestrated by the right-wing Republican Party,” he told the Sun. “They think we’re too stupid to know that the phone lines go straight from Governor Ehrlich’s office to [Lt. Gov.] Michael Steele’s office to President Bush’s office to the Republican Senate committees to the congressional campaign committees.”

The threat would not prevent the General Assembly from overturning Mr. Ehrlich’s veto, Mr. Miller said, adding, “We’re going to override the veto. And I’m going to push that button extra hard.”

Ralph S. Tyler, the Baltimore solicitor, said he does not think the letter is much of a threat because the state could impose options other than a school takeover on the city to comply with the law.

And, he said, the moratorium would last only one year.

Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. said Monday that the moratorium bill is sound and would not prevent the state from carrying out its responsibility under the federal law. He also concluded that federal funds are not in jeopardy.

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