DISTRICT HEIGHTS – Prince George’s County elementary school teacher Mark Maradei liked Vice President Al Gore’s goal of smaller, safer and more modern classrooms.
But he maintained a healthy skepticism about promises made by the Democratic presidential hopeful, who made a campaign stop Thursday afternoon at the District Heights school where Maradei teaches.
“His ideas are great but to put them into action is another story,” Maradei said after the vice president’s appearance.
Gore spent an hour at Francis Scott Key Elementary School on Thursday, first reading privately to students and then discussing his major education initiatives before a welcoming crowd of politicians, teachers and supporters.
The crowd cheered and chanted in response to Gore’s education goals, which include reducing class size, regulating the purchase and use of guns and modernizing the nation’s schools.
“I not only want to be an education president, I want to move a nation into an education decade,” Gore said.
The vice president responded to the Tuesday shooting of a 6-year-old at a Mount Morris Township, Mich., school by detailing his gun-control initiatives.
“In order to keep schools safe, we need to look beyond the schools,” Gore said, which will require government-mandated child-safety trigger locks and special photo IDs for gun buyers.
Gore promised to put 1 million more children in the Head Start program by 2002 and to support legislation creating interest-free bonds for the construction and modernization of schools.
Gore also outlined his plan to reduce class size, which the elementary teachers especially applauded. He said if elected president he would propose a $10,000 signing bonus to all teachers who sign a contract with low-staffed schools.
“In a class of 30 kindergartners, I could use more one-on-one time,” said Mary Wanzer, a teacher at Key.
About half of the crowd of 60 supporters was made up of politicians, including state legislators, members of Congress and others.
Gore is proving that you can “use campaigns not only to win an election but to tell children that it is important to read,” said Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.
Both Rep. Ben Cardin, D-Baltimore, and Maryland Senate President Mike Miller, D-Prince George’s, said Gore has a high chance of winning Tuesday’s primary in Maryland. “The momentum is clearly moving in the vice president’s direction,” Cardin said.
But to the schoolchildren Gore read to before his speech, elections were not on their minds as much as “Green Eggs and Ham.” Gore read the Dr. Seuss classic to a group of students enrolled in the school’s after-school program.
“He (Gore) said he don’t eat green eggs and ham anywhere,” said 6-year-old student Dion Ware, who seemed out of place among the Secret Service officers, press and politicians.