Glendening and the Teachers

June 12, 1994

Is gubernatorial candidate Parris Glendening trying to curry favor with teachers by criticizing aspects of the Schaefer administration's public school reforms?

Some of his Democratic opponents think so. And, indeed, the Prince George's County Executive's criticism of these much-needed reforms has paid off: the Maryland State Teachers Association voted to give its influential endorsement to Mr. Glendening.

But at what cost?

Efforts by the State Board of Education and School Superintendent Nancy Grasmick to make students, teachers and schools accountable for meeting specific standards of achievement must go forward. And yet Mr. Glendening is sending signals that, as governor, he'd scrap much of what has been achieved because of opposition from the teachers' unions.

A takeover of the state's worst schools? Mr. Glendening is opposed (as are the teachers' unions). He claims that "teacher-based schooling" and "community-based schooling" will do the trick, though he cites no evidence that past failures at these schools by local school systems won't be repeated.

Privatization of schools? Mr. Glendening is opposed (so are the teachers' unions), stating this takes Maryland "in the wrong direction." He says a "working partnership" with teachers makes more sense. But in school systems that have failed to provide a decent education for their students, it is time to look beyond the status quo approaches of the past.

Tough performance standards for teachers, students and schools? Mr. Glendening says he backs accountability, but opposes the way the state board is handling these issues (so do the teachers' unions). He wants teachers to have a major say in these determinations. He wants to do away with "confused bureaucratic control by the state" -- whatever that means. He accuses the "state education bureaucracy" of running local schools, which just isn't true. He wants to let each of the 24 public school districts set different education standards.

Maryland taxpayers spend over $4 billion a year on public education. They are not getting their money's worth. Initiatives to bring tough accountability to the system, encourage experimentation and force the worst schools to undergo radical change are among the lasting legacies of the Schaefer years. Mr. Glendening's failure to embrace these reforms is deeply disappointing. His eagerness to link arms with the defenders of a failing education system does not bode well for his gubernatorial aspirations.

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