Building schools, society for the future

November 21, 1997|By Louis L. Goldstein

ASTUTE EDUCATORS have long realized the tie between educational and economic success. Maryland's first school superintendent, Libertus Van Bokkelen, said in the 1860s that ''there is no farm, no bank, no mill, no shop . . . which is not more valuable and more profitable because of the schoolhouse.''

Global economy

Today, we'd have to add ''no biotech firm, no hospital, no computer firm, no assembly line, no aspect of the global economy.'' Some 65 percent of future jobs will demand some education beyond high school. Are Maryland's high school graduates ready for that? That's a question that ought to concern every Marylander.

It takes a skilled work force to attract the high-paying jobs that fuel our state's economy. Can Maryland attract those jobs?

Since 1971, Maryland's public school construction program has provided $2.42 billion for school construction. In recent years, construction funding has been used also for improving technology, including wiring schools for high-tech communications and improving science facilities.

In fiscal year 1998, Maryland will allocate more money for school construction than in any single year over the past 20 years. This reflects the growing school-age population.

Unanticipated surplus state revenue should be used to provide additional funds for school construction and for the infrastructure needed for the technology that will help prepare students for the 21st century. The use of unanticipated surplus is a fiscally responsible approach. Each dollar of surplus used can eliminate 50 cents in interest costs taxpayers must pay when general obligation bonds are sold for school construction.

But facilities are only part of the picture. Attracting and keeping the best teachers is another key part. That's why, as chairman of the board of trustees of the Maryland Retirement Systems, I support improvements to the pension system that many teachers and state employees belong to -- a system that needs to provide better retirement benefits.

The board recommended to the General Assembly enhancements that would increase benefits through the combination of a modest employee contribution and an improved benefits formula. The proposed plan would be very affordable to taxpayers.

Ben Franklin once pointed out that ''an investment in knowledge pays the best interest.'' This is the time to renew our commitment to investing in the future.

Louis L. Goldstein is comptroller for the state of Maryland.

Pub Date: 11/21/97

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