OCEAN CITY -- In the face of ongoing budget cuts and possible layoffs, delegates to the Maryland State Teachers Association convention voted yesterday to lobby the General Assembly and local governments for more money for education.
"If they want education in this country to succeed -- if they want children to be successful -- it's got to come from somewhere," said Barbara Blackburn, an elementary school teacher from Anne Arundel County. "What's needed is more money, more involvement. We've got to let politicians know we're not playing a game."
Through a proposal for tax reform and other measures, delegates said they hope to persuade state and local officials to come up with money for higher teacher salaries and increased per-pupil spending. They also want more money for programs to address problems such as teen-age pregnancy and alcohol and drug abuse.
The assembly also adopted a Bill of Rights for Maryland children.
Like many of the delegates, MSTA Executive Director Michael A. Butera maintained that teachers are continually being asked to take on more responsibility. "All anybody says is do more," he said. "Now they want us to do more with less."
Lewis A. Robinson, director of the Prince George's Education Association, faulted school systems for "robbing Peter to pay Paul" in recent years. In trying to make ends meet, he said, schools have lulled taxpayers into accepting lower education budgets. In addition, teachers have masked the expense of classroom materials by paying for some things themselves.
"Our people are beat," Mr. Robinson said. "They're tired and they're frustrated."
Convention delegates decided to organize a demonstration by teachers and parents when the General Assembly convenes in January. Also in January, members agreed they would stage a job action of at least three days.
In a "No Business as Usual" campaign, delegates agreed to arrive at and leave their schools at the required times and to perform no work outside the regular school day. MSTA officials said the protest was designed not only for public awareness, but encourage teachers to speak up for themselves.
"We want to help teachers feel more confident about saying 'no' to subsidizing what it takes to run a classroom," said MSTA vice president Karl K. Pence, Jr.
In a banquet speech intended to motivate MSTA members, Carolyn Warner, a former Arizona superintendent of public instruction, called on teachers to become leaders in educational reform.