Senate panel votes to retain service rule for graduates

February 27, 1993|By Marina Sarris | Marina Sarris,Staff Writer

ATTENTION STUDENTS: It looks like you will have to perform community service to graduate from high school.

A state Senate committee yesterday narrowly beat back an attempt to abolish Maryland's new requirement, the first of its kind in the nation.

By a 6-5 vote, the Economic and Environmental Affairs Committee upheld the rule making students perform 75 hours of service before graduating.

The rule takes effect with students entering ninth grade this fall.

Community service will teach children to give back to their neighborhoods, in contrast to the "greed" that infused the 1980s, said Sen. Paula C. Hollinger, a Baltimore County Democrat who supports the program.

Nonetheless, the bill's co-sponsor, Sen. Frederick C. Malkus, D-Dorchester, said he may try to persuade the full Senate to ignore the committee vote and pass the bill.

Such attempts require the support of the majority of the Senate, and they rarely succeed.

Maryland became the first state to require community service for graduation last year. The State Board of Education ignored the objections of most of the 24 local school systems when it approved the rule.

Students may fulfill the requirement by joining the Boy or Girl Scouts, volunteering at a soup kitchen or tutoring younger pupils.

Opponents contend the program will be costly, take time away from other subjects and pose a hardship for students who don't have transportation to after-school activities.

"As someone who has taught for 30 years, I really think mandatory volunteerism . . . is simply going to create a monstrosity of a bureaucratic nightmare," said committee member Michael J. Collins, D-Baltimore County.

But his chairman, Sen. Clarence W. Blount, won the argument yesterday with an eloquent defense of volunteerism.

"The [rule] is not perfect, but nothing is ever perfect in this life," said the Baltimore Democrat and educator. "If my parents hadn't required me to do certain things, I might not be doing those things now."

He pooh-poohed Senator Collins' concern that the program would create a mess for school officials charged with keeping track of students' hours of service.

"We in the United States have done whatever we willed to do. We wanted to put a man on the moon and we did it," Senator Blount said. Even if no one can predict the outcome of the service program, he asked, "when did Americans stop taking risks?"

Another committee member said he likes the program because it will enable students from his Southeast Baltimore district to witness "another lifestyle" during their service.

Sen. American Joe Miedusiewski, a Democrat, said some children there live in homes with drugs and no books.

"Most of these parents have never finished high school and don't motivate their children to finish. For the kids in my area, this may be the only opportunity for them to see another lifestyle," he said.

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