ANNAPOLIS – Former Gov. William Donald Schaefer joined lawmakers Tuesday in a joint resolution to urge the federal government to continue to fund public broadcasting.
Surrounded by second graders from Bowie’s Rockledge Elementary School, Schaefer praised the General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Federal Relations for its efforts in publicizing the broadcasters’ plight.
“We must let the people in Congress know, we do not want this money cut,” he said in his first appearance before the legislators since leaving office in January.
Public broadcasting gained attention recently after U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., called for abolishing federal funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which supports public radio and television stations across the country.
Maryland’s joint resolution urges Congress to continue present levels of funding – $2.6 million for five radio stations and the Maryland Public Television network this year.
Schaefer, with more time on his hands since leaving office, said he plans to watch Maryland Public Television.
“Everyone has an opportunity to watch their very excellent programming,” he said.
Maryland House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., D-Allegany, called public broadcasting an asset well worth the money spent by the federal government.
“As we go through this national soul-searching exercise, I really hope we don’t get so greedy that we start to unravel our civilization,” Taylor said.
The second graders entertained the lawmakers with songs before presenting them with homemade Valentines. The next leg of the field trip took pupils to the Maryland Public Television studios in Owings Mills, where they participated in a teleconference with pen pals in Essex, England.
Their principal, John Cheschini, urged the committee and federal lawmakers to “please provide the funds to give other students the opportunities the Rockledge students have today.”
Raymond Ho, president of Maryland Public Television, read lists of reruns from a cable television schedule to make his point that public television is needed to ensure quality programming for children.
“Television is America’s biggest classroom without walls,” Ho said. “Public television must be preserved and strengthened.”
Del. George Owings III, D-Calvert, made the point that latchkey children – those who babysit themselves while their parents work – watch television for hours each day.
Sen. Delores Kelley, D-Baltimore County and a sponsor of the resolution, summed up the arguments: “Public television is a major quality of life for Marylanders,” she said. -30-