WASHINGTON – Maryland’s education programs parallel the school initiatives proposed by President Clinton in his State of the Union address Thursday, said state officials, who hope that will increase their shot at a share of billions in new federal aid.
But the state is ready to press ahead with or without federal help, said an aide to Gov. Parris Glendening.
“If they (federal officials) want to throw in the money, that will speed up our efforts,” said Racquel Guillory, a spokeswoman for the governor. “But if they don’t, it is not going to stop us from doing the things we are doing.”
Those things include school construction, teacher quality and affordable college tuition. Glendening highlighted those goals in his State of the State address earlier this month and Clinton said Thursday that he will ask for billions in new federal funds to pay for many of the same programs.
One of the main points of Clinton’s education plan is a proposal to fund the construction or renovation of up to 6,000 schools nationwide.
“We cannot finish the job when a third of all schools are in serious disrepair, many with walls and wires too old for the Internet,” Clinton said in his speech.
Clinton will ask Congress for $3.7 billion over five years to help deal with overcrowding and aging buildings. Glendening has already allocated about $169 million in school construction money for fiscal 2001 alone, Guillory said.
Where Clinton has proposed $30 million in fiscal 2001 to help reduce class size by hiring 100,000 new teachers, Glendening has budgeted $24 million for teacher retention and scholarship programs in the state.
The president is also calling for approximately $3 billion in tax breaks for college students and an additional $1 billion for scholarship grants and other tuition assistance. The governor has requested $12.8 million in fiscal 2001 for scholarship programs directed at needy students and those studying to be teachers or scientists.
“There is a parallel (federal/state) desire to make sure the cost of tuition doesn’t get in the way of attending,” said Jeff Welsh, a spokesman for the Maryland Higher Education Commission.
Maryland State Teachers Association President Karl Pence said he thinks the similarities between the state and national programs only increase the likelihood that Maryland will win a large chunk of the federal education budget.
“I think Maryland has made a conscious effort to be in a position to be compatible to what the [president’s] agenda has been,” Pence said.