Glendening to send letters to Catholics Mailing prompted by pleas for aid for private schools

December 17, 1996|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,SUN STAFF

In a mass mailing of 6,500 letters -- which will cost about $3,500 to send -- Gov. Parris N. Glendening will respond this week to all the Roman Catholic-school parents who have swamped him with requests for public money for private schools.

The number of letters received since September has not deterred Glendening from answering. "He insisted that each of these letters be responded to personally," spokeswoman Torrie Leonard said yesterday.

But she declined to say what the governor's response would be, or whether it would please the recipients. Nor whether Cardinal William H. Keeler and other leaders of the campaign would be notified before the letters are mailed -- amid the Christmas rush.

"Around 6,500 letters will begin going out this week," said Leonard. "It's a very massive mailing," requiring the services of staff from Glendening's office and two state agencies.

The cost of the response is difficult to calculate, state officials said. Ronald Peiffer, spokesman for the state Department of Education, estimated that the mailing would cost $1,000 to $1,500 in addition to the $2,100 in postage.

The governor's letters are prompted by a statewide campaign asking him to put money in next year's budget for transportation, textbooks and other nonreligious services for students in private schools. The campaign was spearheaded by the Maryland Federation of Catholic-School Families.

A coalition of Jewish parents also supports the proposal and plans to deliver petitions with more than 1,500 signatures to the governor today in Annapolis. "We would like to get them to him before he finalizes his response," said Larry Cohen, an organizer PTC of the petition drive among Jewish day-school parents.

Bill Blaul, spokesman for the cardinal, said the governor had not contacted the cardinal's office about a reply.

Leonard did say that Keeler, Cardinal James A. Hickey of Washington and Bishop Michael Saltarelli of Wilmington, Del., would receive "more personal letters with this first batch."

Mary Ellen Russell, associate director for education of the Maryland Catholic Conference and organizer of the parent federation, said she had heard nothing from the governor's office.

She remained hopeful that the volume of requests and the validity of the arguments would win his support.

Even if the governor turns them down, "we won't drop it," Russell said. "I don't think that the parents would let us. They really need this help."

The federation has argued that families of the 60,000 children in Maryland's Catholic schools save the state $1 million a day by not using public schools. Statewide, there are 166,500 students in private schools -- all of whom would be entitled to the aid, if the governor agreed to it.

Pub Date: 12/17/96

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