New Businesses Can Be Good For Education

This is in response to Commissioner Lennie Thompson’s letter (Dec. 18, 2008), in which he defends the BOCC proposal that the “amount of state school construction funding allocated [by the state] to Frederick County should never be less than the amount of government economic assistance provided by the state to foreign, out of state, business entities.” Commissioner Thompson correctly quoted me as referring to this policy as one that is “economically brain dead.”

While I am committed to the importance of education, I have observed that sometimes the mere mention of “schools” or “education” causes people to dispense with sound reason in evaluating a proposal that is intended to advance schools or education. This phenomenon appears to have occurred here. The above BOCC proposal could actually be harmful to the interests of education.

The BOCC proposal is couched in terms to pit economic development against the schools. This is what is referred to in logic as an “either/or fallacy.” It is a propaganda technique that urges the audience to pit one alternative against another and then to side with the more sympathetic alternative without analysis. Economic development and education need not be competitors. And in fact, they can work together for the benefit of both.

To illustrate this, consider the MedImmune biotechnology business that is being built in the city. I understand that various arms of government within the State extended an estimated ten million dollars in various forms of benefits to MedImmune in order to entice MedImmune to establish its business in Maryland. MedImmune then took the benefits and came here. Its real property is currently valued at $23 million. MedImmune is now working on capital improvements that will increase the taxable value of its real property to $250 million. Upon completion, the MedImmune property will yield annual tax revenues to the state of Maryland in the amount of $4.565 million per year ($250,000,000 x 1.826 per $100 assessed value). Thus the State will totally recoup the $10 million in 2

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