WASHINGTON – A lobbyist for the Baltimore Teachers Union held tutorials on Capitol Hill Tuesday, warning several Maryland members of Congress and their aides about the danger of cutting funds for education.
“We can’t afford not to educate our children,” Mary German, a representative for the American Federation of Teachers, told an aide to Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md. “Where are the senators, congressmen, next president, going to come from if we don’t educate them?”
The House Appropriations Committee reduced federal education funds from $26.8 billion to $23.2 billion in the fiscal year 1996 budget, said majority staff director Tony McCann. The bill passed the House Aug. 4, on a vote of 219 to 208. It hasn’t had a vote yet in the Senate.
The proposed changes would slash Maryland’s education funds by $540 million and further cripple economically disadvantaged students, German said.
Cuts would be made to programs such as Head Start, geared to help pre-schoolers from inner cities, and Title I, which provides additional services to disadvantaged students.
“Most schools in Baltimore are Chapter I, and if it’s cut, it means jobs [would be lost] and children will not be educated,” German said.
German, who is now retired, said she worked for 25 years in Baltimore City schools, helping students who were not able to keep up with their classes by teaching them one on one. She said jobs like her former position could be cut.
John Schumatta, a legislative assistant to Mikulski, said his boss is expected to vote against the House version of the bill. If the Senate increases education funding, she would support that, he said.
Congress has been talking about “tax cuts for the wealthy and cutting Medicare/Medicaid and education,” Schumatta said. “She supports education and thinks we have it backward.”
Bruce Frame, press secretary for Sen. Paul Sarbanes, D-Md., said the senator is against cuts in education and would support higher funding.
But at least one Maryland representative said Tuesday he supported the House measure.
Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, an Eastern Shore Republican, said the House bill “targets money for the most needy and reduces and gets rid of programs that are not needed.”
Gilchrest, who worked as a public school teacher before coming to Congress, said he saw programs that wasted federal money and other programs that could have been combined.
“There was Chapter I money going to schools considered not economically disadvantaged,” said Melvin Thompson, Gilchrest’s legislative assistant.
The House reduced the amount of money available in the budget so the money would go to schools that really need it, Thompson said. But German warned that the future of America’s children rides on the funding bill. If Congress cuts education funds for the disadvantaged, it will be dealing with an increasing crime problem, she said. -30-