Teachers unions hurt quality of education, candidate says Liebmann, GOP hopeful for Senate, releases study

Campaign 1998

July 17, 1998|By David Folkenflik | David Folkenflik,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON -- A Baltimore lawyer who is seeking the Republican nomination to challenge Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski of Maryland argues in a report released yesterday that the state's teachers unions are dragging down the quality of public education.

In the study, George Liebmann, one of several GOP candidates, sharply criticizes the contracts struck between unions and local school boards, saying they bear responsibility for poor student performance because they have stymied meaningful reform.

Liebmann circulated the 29-page report yesterday under the imprint of the Calvert Institute, a Baltimore-based conservative think tank.

"The impression one gets from President Clinton, Governor Glendening and Senator Mikulski is that what the classroom really needs is more construction money and money for more teachers," Liebmann said.

"This sort of explodes that notion."

One local union leader took exception to Liebmann's conclusions, saying that the nation's largest teachers unions have pushed for school reforms.

"When teachers are surveyed, it's not teacher salaries that is the No. 1 concern, it's teaching conditions," said Michael Bond, who recently stepped down as vice president of the Teachers Association of Baltimore County.

"The union traditionally offers more education reform ideas than many school boards."

In the report, Liebmann calls for separate contracts for teachers at the elementary and secondary levels; a merit pay system that moves from rewarding teachers largely on the basis of seniority; more money for teachers in science and math; and incentives for teachers to earn advanced degrees in the subjects they teach.

Although education tends to be a topic on which state and local officials have more influence than federal lawmakers, Liebmann said he thought it was important to highlight burdensome federal regulations and the union contracts that trip up teachers attempting to do well.

"When conservative people have been talking about schools lately, they say it's hopeless," Liebmann says. "There has not been much said about what needs to get done."

Pub Date: 7/17/98

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