Hopefuls pose stark contrast on education CAMPAIGN 1994 -- THE RACE FOR GOVERNOR

October 18, 1994|By Mike Bowler | Mike Bowler,Sun Staff Writer

Ellen R. Sauerbrey promises to use her sword to "cut the bureaucratic fat" in education and allow parents to choose their own schools -- church schools, if they wish.

Parris N. Glendening says he will "fall on the sword for education, and education will be the last thing to be cut."

That sums up a key difference between the Republican and the Democrat as the campaign for governor slides into its final weeks. As it does so, education, for the first time in many state elections, is near the front of the Maryland political burner.

Would a Governor Sauerbrey, with her promise of a four-year, 24-percent tax cut, eventually cut state aid to the neighborhood elementary or high school? Would her tax program cause tuition increases in the state university system?

Mr. Glendening has the endorsement of the powerful Maryland State Teachers Association. Would a Governor Glendening dismantle the state's ambitious public school reforms, reduce the amount of student testing and eliminate the "reconstitution" of failing schools so adamantly opposed by the MSTA?

Nowhere is the contrast between the candidates more evident than in their views on higher education.

Mrs. Sauerbrey, a Baltimore County legislator and former high school biology teacher, speaks of professors who spend much time on frivolous research and little time teaching. "The issue is how we are using the system to make sure we're getting a reasonable bang for the buck," she said.

For years, she said, the General Assembly has been "trying to get a handle on faculty productivity, and we've been stonewalled at every turn." Such remarks send chills through the halls of ivy, where professors and administrators are mobilizing support for the Democrat.

Mr. Glendening, a professor-turned Prince George's County executive (he earned $7,900 last year teaching one government course each semester at the University of Maryland College Park), said he knows how hard professors work. "I know most of my colleagues very well, and I don't know anyone who doesn't work 50 or 60 hours a week," he said. "All they're asking for is for someone to set a tone, who understands what higher education is really about."

Neither candidate has been specific about education finances, although Mrs. Sauerbrey maintains she can achieve her tax cuts without reducing scheduled increases in state aid to public schools -- 5.4 percent the first year -- or raising university tuition.

She said public education "operates like a planned economy -- a bureaucratic system with few incentives for innovation and productivity." Giving students a "choice" such as that provided by a voucher plan, she said, would force the public systems to operate more efficiently and lower their costs.

Mr. Glendening has made education his highest priority, "not only in my campaign, but in my life. There are three primary issues in the campaign: crime, economics, including jobs, and education. But with a good education system now, we'll cut down on crime and create jobs later. We'll also be able to compete in the world marketplace."

The Democrat says education, higher and lower, needs "additional funding," and one of his priorities is narrowing the gap in spending between wealthy subdivisions and poor ones such as Baltimore City, whose mayor, Kurt L. Schmoke, has endorsed Mr. Glendening.

Mr. Glendening says he would find the extra money without raising taxes. "Rather, we'd do it by a series of hard decisions within the budget, just as we've done in Prince George's County. Over my 12 years, we managed to double expenditures [for each public school student] from $2,900 when I took over to $6,100 today."

Just before the September primary, it appeared Mrs. Sauerbrey and Mr. Glendening would be at loggerheads over the future of Nancy S. Grasmick, state school superintendent, and her reforms, which have forced ever higher standards -- and more testing -- on Maryland's 772,000 public school students and 45,000 teachers.

But both candidates said last week that they supported Dr. Grasmick and her "school performance plan." And Mr. Glendening appeared to be putting some distance between himself and the union, an organization his opponent said is "one of the chief barriers to educational reform in Maryland."

Mr. Glendening said he had not been asked to do anything in return for the MSTA endorsement and that he supported another new state requirement that teachers be rated satisfactory or better in three of every five years in order to keep their jobs.

"My only concern in all of this," he said, "is that teachers weren't involved enough in the reform process. You can't sell a product if people at the street level have no enthusiasm for it."

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