Candidate Glendening pegs education as his top priority in speech at school

March 15, 1994|By Robert Timberg | Robert Timberg,Sun Staff Writer

Parris N. Glendening, the Prince George's county executive, told teachers at a Northeast Baltimore elementary school yesterday that education would be the top priority of his administration if he is elected governor.

But Mr. Glendening, in a half-hour address billed as a "comprehensive plan" for improving the state's education system, was vague in saying how he would pay for the increased emphasis he would place on the state's schools.

Instead, he associated himself with the presumed concerns of teachers, parents and pupils -- insufficient funding, disruptive students, inadequate facilities -- while promising a detailed discussion of his financing plans later in the campaign.

"We must increase state support of education overall or everything we do elsewhere -- in growing the economy, in fighting crime, in building that better world -- will be for naught," he said.

He told reporters afterward that the necessary funds would come from cutting other, unspecified state programs, as well as from revenues generated by hoped-for growth in the state's economy.

Mr. Glendening spoke to about 30 teachers at Sinclair Lane Elementary School after classes let out. The principal, Ernestine Lewis, is the mother of Mr. Glendening's political director, John Lewis. Mrs. Lewis said the teachers attended the speech "on

TC volunteer basis." She said she informed her supervisor that Mr. Glendening would be speaking.

Before addressing the teachers, Mr. Glendening read a story -- "The Day Jimmy's Boa Ate the Wash" by Trinka Hakes Noble -- to 24 second-grade boys, climbing down on the floor with the children and interacting with them in a manner that seemed natural and engaging.

"My boys can recognize phonies very quickly," said Federico R. Adams, the teacher. "They gauged that he was sincere."

As to the propriety of candidate Glendening campaigning on the grounds, Donna Franks, a spokeswoman for the city schools, said late yesterday, "We can't locate any written policy, but tradition has held that we don't encourage any kind of campaigning in the schools."

Mr. Glendening's address yesterday marked the start of a five-week effort to highlight key planks in his gubernatorial platform through speeches and media events. His press secretary, David Seldin, described it as "laying the policy groundwork" for the campaign.

"I, as governor, intend to make education the first focus of my administration," the three-term Democratic county executive told the teachers. "Education is the No. 1 priority of this campaign, will be the No. 1 priority of the Glendening administration and has been my No. 1 priority in Prince George's County."

He decried state support for education, saying it had failed to meet needs and has pitted subdivision against subdivision, turning counties "into children fighting for parts of an increasingly threadbare blanket on a cold winter night."

As part of his plan, he promised to invest principals and teachers with greater authority on matters ranging from shaping the curriculum to handling disruptive students.

To prepare students for the high technology of the 21st century, he said, every school should have a computer lab and computer instruction. "And the state must help to support this," he said, "especially in jurisdictions where funds are tight."

He also pledged innovative approaches to encourage local businesses to involve themselves with the schools and to make it easier for parents to participate in the education of their children.

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