Gov. Parris N. Glendening said yesterday he intends to increase education spending by $130 million next year -- including money to cut class sizes -- but stopped short of committing to the state school board's ambitious plan for ending social promotion and overcoming a teacher shortage.
In a rare public meeting with the state school board, Glendening and schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick also disclosed that they have begun discussions with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for additional support of Maryland's education reform.
While his budget for next year is in preparation, the governor told the board that the increase in education spending will include $97 million more in aid to local school systems.
More than $81 million of the increased local aid is required by state law, according to state education officials. The governor's staff said the total includes an extra $10 million for local systems' efforts to reduce class sizes. This school year, the only school system receiving money for smaller classes is Montgomery County, which was given $1.7 million.
Glendening also said he expects to add money to pay for teacher recruitment incentives approved during last spring's legislative session, including teacher training, college scholarships for aspiring teachers and bonuses for experienced teachers to work in failing schools.
The budget proposal will include $5 million to fine-tune state testing programs and to share students' scores with their parents, and $2.2 million to improve the state's teacher accreditation process, according to the governor's staff.
But Glendening indicated he would be able to pay for only a portion of the two major programs proposed by the state school board to fight the state's teacher shortage and to help low-performing students.
"We're not going to give everything requested, but I think you'll see some progress," Glendening told the board. He did not detail how he plans to allocate much of the education spending increase, and his staff said specifics are being worked out.
Last week, the state board approved a $33 million package to recruit and retain more teachers, including expanding mentoring programs for new teachers and marketing teaching as a profession.
As part of that plan, the board hopes to begin offering some high school students free college tuition and guarantees of teaching jobs, provided they promise to teach in Maryland schools for at least four years.
"We all agree on the need," Glendening said. "We're still trying to sort out what we can afford."
The state board also is seeking $49 million for a plan to help low-performing elementary and middle school pupils, including mandatory summer school for eighth-graders who have low reading and math skills.
The plan, which would require local school systems to help first- and second-graders as soon as they start to fall behind, is aimed at preparing students for high school exams that will soon be required to earn a Maryland diploma.
"We must, we think, go this additional step to help students and help teachers help students," said Edward Andrews, board vice president.
Board members warned Glendening that if the package doesn't receive money, the state faces the prospect of thousands of ill-prepared students failing the exams.
"I can't imagine what we would do," said board member Reginald Dunn about the prospect of hundreds or thousands of youngsters not receiving diplomas.
Glendening agreed that efforts to help students early are critical. He noted that in a series of articles in The Sun last week on boot camps, all of the juvenile offenders had below-average academic skills.
"It is a real challenge, and part of the way to avoid this is to help students early," the governor said.
Glendening promised $1 million for the least costly of the board's three priority budget items for next year: salary increases for employees at the State Department of Education. Grasmick and state board members say that salaries in local school systems have surpassed the salaries of people in similar state positions and they want to equalize the salaries over the next three years.
The governor also reaffirmed his pledge to spend $1 billion on school construction and renovations during his four-year term, saying he anticipated that the state will have enough revenues. This fall, he pledged that during the next two years, every classroom in Maryland will have telephones and high-speed Internet connections.
The $17 billion Gates Foundation -- formed by the founder of Microsoft and his wife -- has dedicated most of its efforts to the Pacific Northwest, but it recently has begun looking to support national education reform efforts, state officials said.
"The Gates Foundation is interested in working with Maryland," said Major F. Riddick, the governor's chief of staff. Last week, the foundation gathered education experts from around the country to discuss the state of American high schools and ways to improve them.
In Maryland, the Gates Foundation's most immediate interest is in low-performing schools that are eligible to be taken over by the state, Riddick said. He said he expects to resume discussions with the foundation next month.
The Gates Foundation did not return phone messages yesterday.
The governor and state board members agreed to meet again in the spring after the conclusion of the General Assembly session.