Arundel teachers back political outsiders Budget shortchanges education, union says

June 16, 1998|By Kris Antonelli | Kris Antonelli,SUN STAFF

The Anne Arundel teachers union, angry with elected officials for adopting a budget members say gives education short shrift, has endorsed a slate of political outsiders in races for county executive and the County Council.

The Teachers' Association of Anne Arundel County announced yesterday its endorsement of Democrat Janet S. Owens, a former Orphan's Court judge, for county executive and five County Council candidates who have never held public office.

"I must note that in county government, our members could not find one incumbent candidate who has made any serious commitment to public education," John R. Kurpjuweit, president of the union that represents 4,000 teachers, said in a statement.

The announcement came three weeks before the filing deadline for candidates, nearly three months before the September primary and five months before the general election in November.

Kurpjuweit said he announced the endorsements early because the union's government relations committee meeting June 3 was its last until September.

County Executive John G. Gary and the County Council have tried to run the school system "through intimidation and coercion," Kurpjuweit said in his statement.

"Teachers will not put up with bullies on the playground and in our classrooms. We certainly believe the citizens in this county will not tolerate bullies running their county government," he said.

The teachers union and others in education have attacked Gary regularly. The county executive has said he is trying to make the school system live within the county's means.

Kurpjuweit said the union shunned Owens' primary opponent, Councilwoman Diane R. Evans, who switched parties from Republican to Democratic to run against Gary, because of her previous votes on education funding.

Owens, a longtime county resident who has been ignored by party leaders in favor of Evans, said she is "thrilled" to get the union's endorsement.

"First of all, I want to say that I don't want to be superintendent of schools," Owens said yesterday. "I am completely committed to education, and I want a partnership with the school system."

Gary and the eight-member independent school board have been at odds for years. The relationship worsened this year when the board and Superintendent Carol S. Parham submitted a budget with a 14 percent increase in an election year.

Gary maintained that the increase in the board's request was more than the total amount of new county revenue allowed under the tax ceiling and accused the board of padding the budget. The request was unreasonable, and Parham went along with it in exchange for her contract renewal, Gary said.

Parham noted that her contract was renewed before budget deliberations started.

In County Council races, the union endorsed Pam Beidle, a 1st District Democrat; Dan Klosterman, a 2nd District Democrat; Shirley Murphy, a 3rd District Democrat; Cathleen Vitale, a 5th District Republican; and Barbara Samorajczyk, a 6th District Democrat.

The union made no endorsements in the 4th and 7th Districts, where no one has filed to run against incumbents Ed DeGrange and Bert Rice.

Pub Date: 6/16/98

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