Glendening proposes scholarship program to create teachers Students would get grants if they agreed to teach in state after graduation

September 03, 1998|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Mike Bowler contributed to this article.

Responding to a worsening teacher shortage, Gov. Parris N. Glendening proposed yesterday to give scholarships to Maryland students if they agree to teach in the state after graduation.

His proposal, which builds on a program approved this year by the governor and General Assembly for math and science students, would provide grants of up to $3,000 a year to education majors who maintain "B" averages.

"Our goal is to take the best and brightest from our colleges and put them in our classrooms," Glendening said at a news conference at the University of Maryland, College Park.

School systems in Maryland are expecting to have an increasingly hard time hiring enough teachers in the next several years.

11,000 will be needed

During the last school year, for example, the state's 24 local systems hired about 5,700 teachers. By 2001, those systems will need an estimated 11,000 teachers, thanks to increasing enrollments and a growing number of retirements, according to the state Department of Education.

Beyond that, Glendening and his leading Republican rival, Ellen R. Sauerbrey, have called for the state to pay for hiring 1,000 more teachers over the next four years to strengthen reading and math instruction.

Under Glendening's proposal, students would be required to teach in Maryland for the same number of years they receive the scholarship. Should they leave the state or opt out of teaching, the grant would convert to a loan.

The governor said the teaching scholarships would cost the state about $5 million a year, a cost he said could be readily absorbed by the state's $16.5 billion budget.

Assembly approval needed

If approved by the General Assembly, the program could begin offering scholarships next fall and produce its first teaching graduates four years later.

To bridge the gap until then, Glendening proposed adding $2 million annually to existing programs -- one that helps teachers repay their college loans and another that provides scholarships to students who agree to teach in areas with a critical shortage of instructors.

But none of his proposals addresses what he acknowledged was the leading reason that not enough students choose to go into teaching -- relatively low salaries.

"The economy is doing well, and people do get better financial offers" in other fields, Glendening said. "When you're starting out after college, that makes a difference."

Glendening's proposal didn't seem to stir many of the 40 College Park students who gathered to hear his remarks.

Brian Sheehy, a 19-year-old sophomore from Massachusetts, said he had little interest in teaching -- after watching his mother, a teacher, work in unsafe conditions and get laid off.

"I think the scholarship is a good thing to do," Sheehy said. "But it's not the only thing that needs to be done. You have to ensure a safe environment for learning to go on or you can't provide a good education."

Proposal applauded

On the other hand, Robert Hayward, a junior from College Park who has incurred $5,000 in debt studying to become a high school history teacher, applauded Glendening's proposal.

"It would be great if I could qualify," said Hayward, 20. "If that's what he wants to do, I'd love to take it."

Hayward said he is not overly concerned about the relatively low salaries paid starting teachers. "If I'm making enough money to get along, and I enjoy what I'm doing, that's enough," he said.

Dennis E. Hinkle, dean of education at Towson University, applauded Glendening's proposals, though he said his school will need additional funding to train more teachers.

"Our enrollment is already about as high as it can be," Hinkle said. "When more students come, we need to be ready for them. But anything that would provide incentive for people who are on the fence about entering education is a good first step."

Sauerbrey, herself the recipient of a teaching scholarship in her senior year at Western Maryland College, said she also favors expanding grants to education students. But she called Glendening's proposal too broad and said she would focus such grants on teaching fields with the most critical needs.

Pub Date: 9/03/98

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