Governor's passionate commitment to education is heartening

Posted on February 14, 1999 at 23:25:12:

Last Friday marked the end of an extraordinary week in Annapolis with the swearing in of Governor Glendening for a second term in which he gave a highly regarded Inaugural speech and followed it the next day with an inspirational state of the state address.

In a most appropriate and poignant opening to his state of the state address, Governor Glendening made mention of the sad fact that his, mine and Southern Marylanders' good friend, the late Louis L. Goldstein, was not sitting in his familiar spot in the House Chamber.

Comptroller Goldstein would no doubt have been pleased with many of the remarks in Governor Glendening's speech, especially regarding education. As a member of the Board of Public Works for his many years as comptroller, Louis Goldstein put a high priority on education spending.

Calling his second term the "Beginning of the Golden Age of School Construction" Governor Glendening let us know that he was committed to building more schools, hiring more teachers and pushing for the HOPE scholarship program of which I am a proud co-sponsor.

The HOPE scholarship program was initiated last year to encourage more students to pursue fields in science and technology.

In his state of the state address, Governor Glendening said he wants to expand the HOPE scholarship program further to include more and more children every year. This year he wants support to grant HOPE scholarships to students who agree to teach in Maryland once graduating from college and becoming certified. This will ensure that we produce quality teachers through this program and keep that quality here in Maryland.

Teacher shortage is two-fold. An alarming number of teachers are retiring and recruiting top-notch certified teachers is becoming increasingly difficult. Enrollment in teacher education programs in Maryland have remained static, while the number of vacancies has significantly increased. We need to give students more incentives to get into education and by offering HOPE scholarships to prospective teachers is a good way to fill this growing void.

I was pleased that the governor made sure in very clear, concise and thorough language in his state of the state speech that his educational priorities are not just brick and mortar. He wants new schools to be state-of-the art and staffed with outstanding certified teachers. He also wants schools in Maryland to be held accountable for providing quality education to our students. I couldn't agree more.

We cannot let our school system fail our students as badly as, for example, our neighbor Washington, D.C. Governor Glendening is taking a visionary, proactive rather than reactive stance towards education as we enter the 21st Century.

Even the governor's harshest foes found little to criticize in his speech. The cynics may say advocating a pro-education message was an easy no-lose stance to take for the governor, but his life experiences prove that this policy agenda is not politics as usual.

Since he was a young child, the governor has committed himself to education. His story is an especially inspirational one when you consider how important education is in making someone successful. Here is a governor entering his second term in office who grew up in poverty and was actually discouraged by his parents to pursue a higher education. In spite of his parents, Governor Glendening embraced education with extreme gusto and has become a true role model to every student in the state when it comes to improving one's mind. There are few better people to push for an aggressive education agenda than Governor Glendening.

The population explosion in Southern Maryland makes it essential that we build more schools and renovate the existing ones to keep up with the modernization of the new ones. More teachers and more schools are necessary to combat the biggest problem facing educators: overloaded classrooms. Southern Maryland's student-to-teacher ratios are among the largest in the state. This is a trend that can not continue.

We do not want our teachers to be babysitters. We want them to teach. We want them to mentor. We want them to be role models. We want to give them the resources they need to spend quality time with each and every student that enters their classroom. They can not do this in overcrowded classes.

Governor Glendening's extraordinarily passionate committment to elementary, secondary and higher education could not have come at a better time. On January 27, public officials and school board representatives from St. Mary's and Calvert County appeared before the Board of Public Works which is made up of the governor, newly sworn in Comptroller William Donald Schaefer and newly re-elected Treasurer Richard Dixon.

I was pleased to stand in front of the Board of Public Works with the representatives from St. Mary's and Calvert counties to support and push for their request for additional funding since, as I've said, no jurisdiction in the state needs more schools and teachers than we do.

A comment by Calvert Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jim Hook that "growth has to be properly funded or quality will deteriorate" is right on the mark. I will do everything in my power to ensure that schools in need in my legislative district will receive as much funding as necessary -- this year and every year I have the honor of serving Calvert and St. Mary's County in the State Senate.

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