Rehrmann would use slot revenue for teachers She says 2,000 more needed in elementaries

Campaign 1998

August 05, 1998|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,SUN STAFF

Declaring that Maryland schools are in "crisis," Democratic gubernatorial candidate Eileen M. Rehrmann said yesterday that the state should use slot machine proceeds to hire 2,000 teachers to help elementary school pupils struggling to learn to read.

As part of what she said would be a $1 billion, five-year education initiative, Rehrmann said the state should put computers in every classroom and called for the creation of a new teaching scholarship program to attract people to the profession.

"I think it is clear we have a reading crisis in our state," Rehrmann said during a meeting with editorial writers and a reporter for The Sun. "I will be proposing a billion-dollar solution."

Rehrmann, the two-term Harford County executive, is supporting the legalization of slot machines at three Maryland horse racing tracks -- with some of the proceeds dedicated to education spending.

Slots have emerged as the leading issue separating Rehrmann from Gov. Parris N. Glendening, who has vowed to veto any slots legislation passed by the General Assembly.

But yesterday, Rehrmann kept the focus on the state's education deficiencies, and she accused Glendening of doing little to address subpar reading test scores around the state.

"Parris Glendening has had no initiative for improving reading in our state," Rehrmann said.

Peter Hamm, a spokesman for the Glendening campaign, called Rehrmann's attacks "disingenuous."

"This governor has used both the state's budget and his bully pulpit to attack head-on the challenges facing our children and our schools," Hamm said. "This is the man who has brought this issue to the forefront.

"She would invite thousands of slot machines into the state and use our children as an excuse to do so," Hamm added. "It's really very troubling."

In other areas, Rehrmann said that if elected she would:

Reappoint state school Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick, who has been the leader of the state's education reform efforts, when Grasmick's term expires next year. A spokesman for Glendening said the governor would consider Grasmick's future, along with the rest of his Cabinet, at the beginning of his second term.

Have her lieutenant governor, former Montgomery County Executive Sidney Kramer, head an effort to overhaul and streamline Maryland's regulatory and permit process to make the state more attractive to business.

Push to have the state take over the cost of operating the Circuit Court system, which is borne by local governments. The tab statewide would be more than $20 million, she said.

But Rehrmann made it clear that she would make her educa- tion initiative the centerpiece of her campaign between now and the Sept. 15 Democratic primary.

She said it would take up to five years to hire the 2,000 teachers, who would be placed in schools with the greatest numbers of students not reading at appropriate levels. Most of the teachers would be assigned to grades kindergarten to third grade, generally working two to a classroom, said Rehrmann, who was a teacher in the 1960s in Roman Catholic schools.

In her attack on the governor, Rehrmann accused him of being "missing in action" during the recent debate over how many reading classes teachers should take.

The state school board, which is appointed by Glendening, voted last week to increase the number of reading courses that Maryland teachers must take -- over the objections of the state teachers union and some college officials.

Ray Feldmann, the governor's press secretary, said Glendening did not take a position on the teacher-training initiative, leaving it instead to the state school board to decide.

Other gubernatorial candidates have adopted education platforms with some similarities to Rehrmann's.

Glendening has said he will launch a second-term initiative to reduce class sizes in reading and math.

Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey announced recently her plan to have the state hire 1,001 new teachers by 2002.

On the gambling issue, Rehrmann said her goal is to allow the state to hang on to the millions of dollars being spent by Marylanders in slot machines in nearby states. "I believe we should keep the money here and not send it to Delaware to hTC improve the Delaware schools," she said.

She said she does not believe allowing slots should be characterized as immoral in a state already awash in gambling, including the Maryland lottery.

Pub Date: 8/05/98

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