Glendening announces education plan, but makes no new money commitment

June 16, 1995|By Jean Thompson | Jean Thompson,Sun Staff Writer

C Gov. Parris N. Glendening yesterday outlined his nine-point plan for education, pledging to stay the course of reform, renovate rundown buildings and pay rewards to schools that make academic progress.

His agenda for education includes many previously announced plans and elaborations on his campaign platform, and made no specific commitments of new money. He said his goals could be pursued by reallocating budgets, setting priorities and proposing legislative and regulatory changes.

The most costly and potentially controversial of Mr. Glendening's plans is expected to be his call for realigning school construction, funneling more money to repair old, dilapidated schools instead of building new ones.

By repairing schools, especially by upgrading wiring and other internal systems, he hopes to help speed advanced technology programs into Maryland's classrooms -- another of his key goals.

He also hopes to encourage families to stay and contribute to their communities. "The new schools are always out there in the newest suburbs," Mr. Glendening said. "We want people to think 'our neighborhood school is as good as the school out there.' "

The school construction budget for next year is $118 million. About $70 million of it targets renovations, additions and replacements of existing properties.

Mr. Glendening said he hopes to maintain the funding level at $118 million for the next four years. The budget projection had been about $100 million a year, however, so the administration would have to cut from other projects. Cuts likely will be made in the budget for prison construction, for starters, the governor said during an interview.

The shift in construction priorities pleased officials in areas with older school buildings and troubled those in rapidly growing suburbs.

Michael E. Hickey, superintendent of Howard County Schools, said, "I am very worried -- I have some mixed feeling and concerns about giving priorities to renovations." Howard County, which will open two new high schools this fall, is one of the fastest growing counties in the state, with school enrollment, now 36,125, expected to peak at 50,000 by the year 2008, he said.

In Baltimore, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke hailed the governor's proposal. Baltimore has some of the greatest renovation needs in the state -- 26 percent of its school space was built or last renovated before 1960. Mr. Schmoke said, "Some money, in the past, the city just couldn't use because we were not in the position of building new facilities. But if you change the regulations without expanding the pot of funds available, the city might be able to qualify for some of that."

With his announcements yesterday, Mr. Glendening adopted Maryland's existing reform agenda as his own, embellished it, and added several goals proposed to him by more than 70 educators, executives and others who have been meeting for months to help him chart his course for education.

Many of them attended yesterday's news conference, approving he added his personal stamp to the 5-year-old Maryland School Performance Assessment Program.

Developed by the state Department of Education, that program set goals for student learning and requires students to demonstrate skills on annual critical-thinking test.

Schools that score poorly and show decline are eligible for state-mandated restructuring, or state takeover if the district cannot fix the school. Each of the last two winters, the state released the names of the low-performers, but not the high-performers.

Yesterday, Mr. Glendening proposed earmarking roughly $10 million in the fiscal 1997 budget to pay bonuses to schools that show improvement.

Past efforts to create such a fund did not receive sufficient support in the legislature, primarily because of the cost, said state Schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick.

Mr. Glendening also proclaimed his backing for long-promised enhancements for the state's four historically black colleges: Bowie State University, Coppin State College, Morgan State University and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. In 1988, the General Assembly passed legislation which called for improvements for the black campuses. But the recession struck in 1990, leading state officials to cut spending.

Mr. Glendening also said his administration would strengthen the state's 18 campus community college system by developing several "regional career technology centers" to provide training in high-tech industries for students who do not intend to attend a four-year campus.

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