ANNAPOLIS – With a prosperous national economy and a huge state budget surplus, Gov. Parris Glendening expanded his longtime commitment to education in the proposed $19.6 billion fiscal 2001 operating budget released Tuesday.
Glendening, a former University of Maryland professor, plans to pump about $167 million of the state’s $925 million surplus into public school construction, and funnel another $153 million into higher education facilities, according to the operating budget.
Glendening will boost that commitment by $622 million for elementary, secondary, and post-secondary school construction when he releases his capital budget next week.
Plus the state will pay for the improvements in cash, rather than bonds, saving an estimated $190 million in interest payments, according to Glendening.
Glendening’s main education priorities are advancing classroom technology, recruiting and retaining teachers, simplifying teacher certification, and reducing class size, specifically in first- and second- grade English and language classes.
Even with the new money, cutting class sizes may be a problem. The state is facing a critical shortage of teachers – the state will need 11,000 teachers by the fall of 2001, while Maryland colleges will graduate just 2,500 a year. To help alleviate the teacher deficit, Glendening increased funding for teacher retention and set aside scholarship money for college students majoring in education.
“There is no doubt that teacher shortage is a critical issue when it comes to Maryland schools,” said Neil Greenberger, Maryland Department of Education spokesman.
The department and the superintendent of schools, Nancy Grasmick, are “ecstatic” about Glendening’s budget allocations to promote teacher retention and teacher scholarships, Greenberger said. Although they asked for $32.7 million, they got a significant portion of it, $24 million.
“This is an education budget,” Glendening said. “The strength of our economy is based on education right now.”
Providing part of the education windfall is the state’s share of the national tobacco settlement. Maryland will collect more than $4 billion over the next 20 years, and next year $50 million of that will fund education initiatives, such as the University of Maryland Dental School, classroom technology, and teacher mentoring.
Also included in the Cigarette Restitution Fund money is more than $6 million for books for non-public schools, an initiative that has stirred controversy.
That allocation could open the door for bigger spending on non-public schools in the future, according to the Maryland State Teachers Association.
“We strenuously object to that provision. We think it’s a mistake on his part,” said Karl Pence, association president. “I just think there’s too much potential for abuse. I’d rather see him put the $6 million in higher education.”
Funding for non-public schools should have been put in a bill, rather than the budget, so legislators could debate it and be held accountable for their votes on it, Pence said.
Meanwhile, the higher education budget reflects record increases in financial support for building enhancements, scholarships, and technology programs.
The University of Maryland System is budgeted for an additional $800 million from the general fund in fiscal 2001 – 11 percent more than this year. Community colleges received 15 percent more, and private university funding was up 14 percent.
Three state scholarship programs – for budding teachers, prospective scientists and the needy – received $12.8 million in the new budget.
The state Legislature still must pass judgment on Glendening’s budget and a big fight is expected there over use of the surplus and the tobacco money. –30– CNS-1-18-00