Duncan would create state education Cabinet

Would-be governor releases schools plan


Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, a Democratic candidate for governor, released an education initiative yesterday that calls for the creation of an education Cabinet and emphasizes the need for private-sector investment in schools.

"The quality of a child's education should not be determined by geography," Duncan, 50, said in a statement provided by the campaign. "Every young person in Maryland deserves an equal opportunity to get a quality education, regardless of where they live."

Duncan, who is vying with Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley for his party's nomination, said he would create an education Cabinet, a state body composed of individuals from across Maryland government. The Cabinet would include officials from agencies ranging from the departments of Health and Mental Hygiene and Natural Resources to the Maryland Stadium Authority.

The goal, according to Duncan's proposal, is to draw on the departments' existing resources and expertise to supplement work done by the Maryland Department of Education and the state Board of Education. No new positions would be created for the Cabinet. The plan does not provide specific goals for the Cabinet or say how many people would participate.

Duncan's plan also says he would give preference in awarding state contracts to companies that provide flexibility to working parents who want to attend a child's school activities.

"Maryland government agencies can use their purchasing power to reward companies that demonstrate their commitment to education," Duncan says in the plan.

Duncan also promises to fully fund the Bridge to Excellence Act, also known as the Thornton Plan. Thornton requires an additional $1.3 billion yearly in state public education spending by the 2008 budget year.

Jonathan Epstein, O'Malley's campaign manager, said the mayor welcomes new ideas to the election-year discussion about how to improve the state's public schools. O'Malley has released a proposal to improve teacher pension plans and recruit more qualified teachers, and will offer additional ideas about improving education throughout the campaign, Epstein said.

"We look forward to rolling out the next chapter of our education plan," Epstein said.

Duncan is scheduled to present his plan tonight during a Children 1st Awards Banquet at Huber Memorial Baptist Church in Baltimore.


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