A possible revamping of the Maryland Department of Education could focus the agency's efforts more intensely on elementary and secondary education.
Under a scenario outlined at the state Board of Education meeting yesterday, the department would be dramatically scaled back in a move that could result in some 1,000 of its 1,400 employees being shifted to other state agencies.
The options outlined by state school Superintendent Joseph L. Shilling would affect such programs as vocational rehabilitation, adult and continuing education and education for prisoners.
Shilling said those programs could be shifted out of the education department and put under the control of other agencies.
Vocational rehabilitation could become part of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, for example. Prisoner education could be shifted to the Division of Correction. And adult and continuing education programs could be put under the jurisdiction of the state's community college system.
The board gave Shilling the go-ahead to discuss these possibilities with Gov. William Donald Schaefer. Some of the proposals would require legislation.
Shilling said that the education department may need to concentrate strictly on elementary and secondary education.
He praised the vocational rehabilitation, prisoner education and adult continuing education programs, but suggested that they would fit more logically in other departments.
Shilling also suggested passing along the department's responsibility for public library programs and for accrediting non-public schools.
"I think that the mission of the Maryland State Department of Education ought to focus on elementary and secondary education," he said after the meeting. The department should "devote every ounce of energy we have on that."
Board members were generally supportive, but voiced some concern about whether educational programs would be given enough support in other departments.
Shilling conceded that there could be some problems, especially if an education program were forced to compete for scarce funds within another department.
In other action yesterday, the board approved -- for the second time -- a new regulation that will let college graduates teach in Maryland public schools without the usual teacher training.
Under the new program, a college graduate could get a temporary teaching certificate under a two-year program that requires additional course work and a residency under the supervision of a teacher/mentor.
The board originally approved the program in a modified form in September. But it was forced to back off after the Maryland State Teacher's Association, which opposes the program, threatened to sue the board for approving a modified regulation without proper public notice.
The board made no changes to the regulation this time around.