ANNAPOLIS Montgomery County lawmakers gave high marks to Gov. Parris Glendening’s devotion to education and recognition for the need of a Civil Rights Bill in Thursday’s State of the State speech.
But he was graded down on not being conservative with his budget.
Delegate Sharon M. Grosfeld, D-Montgomery, was impressed that Glendening’s address focused on ways to improve the quality and access to education for Maryland residents on all levels from kindergarten to college.
“I don’t remember any other governor focusing on education to the depth Glendening has,” Grosfeld said, adding that the governor showed he knows a state’s fiscal health is not solely dependent on economic development initiatives. “This really demonstrates that his commitment is truly genuine and not just political rhetoric.”
During his address, Glendening outlined programs to reduce class sizes and bring in more qualified teachers. Glendening also proposed legislation that would require jurisdictions reduce the percentage of non-certified teachers to no more than 2 percent in order to qualify for funding under a class-size reduction program.
On higher education, he pledged to expand a scholarship program, which is earmarked for science and technology students only, by including any Maryland student who agrees to teach in the state after graduating.
Until these students reach the teaching market, however, Glendening proposed education funding for another 2,000 teachers through existing programs. He also wants to bring educational excellence at state colleges and universities with $102 million in new money.
Glendening underscored his concern that Maryland children have quality teachers leading classrooms.
“Right now there are far too many teachers who are not certified to teach in their area of instruction. Imagine a math teacher who is not trained to teach math. We are one of the few advanced countries in the world to permit this,” he said. “This is unacceptable and it must change.”
Sen. Ida G. Ruben, D-Montgomery, agreed.
“We don’t have enough math and science teachers in the state or Montgomery County. We have too many teachers who are not certified to teach their courses. We need qualified teachers in our classrooms,” she said.
But Sen. Patrick J. Hogan, Montgomery, felt Glendening “said a lot of things to make a lot of people happy.”
“It’s great to make promises, but we have to live within reason,” Hogan said. “We (as a legislature) now have our jobs cut out for us to pass a budget that is fiscally acceptable.”
Sen. Jean W. Roesser, a fellow Montgomery County Republican, echoed Hogan’s concern.
“He wants to considerably increase teacher certification and expand the (scholarship) program. I don’t know how he’s going to do that. I don’t know how he’s going to pay for that,” she said. “I’m concerned that the budget Glendening is proposing will exceed our affordability. It’s true we have a surplus, but it’s risky to have a big budget.
The state is projecting a $250 million surplus.
In addition to education initiatives, Glendening is pushing for social change. Grosfeld was particularly grateful to hear Glendening support for an anti- discrimination bill. For the past few years, Grosfeld has sponsored a similar bill that each year died at the committee level.
“I believe quite strongly that there should be no discrimination against gays and lesbians in any realm of life. I hope others agree the equality of rights are deserved to be shared by everyone,” she said.
Sen. Leonard H. Teitelbaum, D-Montgomery, also supports the idea of a civil rights bill. As a health subcommittee member, he is particularly eager to find out how Glendening will lay out his planned patients’ Bill of Rights. Teitelbaum said he wants to see a bill that expands coverage, particularly to experimental treatments, and contains notification provisions so patients will know exactly what their rights are.
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