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Gansler spot focuses on teachers' effectiveness

A 30-second television spot for Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler's gubernatorial campaign highlights the Democrat's pledge to "lift up all our kids" by ensuring that teachers are placed in classrooms based on effectiveness over seniority.

What the ad says: The ad depicts Gansler walking down a school corridor.

"In Maryland, we're proud to have some of the best schools in the nation," he says to the camera. "But we also have some of the worst."

Gansler proceeds to a classroom with "SKILL OVER SENIORITY IN EVERY CLASSROOM" written on the blackboard.

"For starters, instead of putting ineffective teachers in classrooms because of seniority, let's put the most effective teachers to work," he says.

He stops in front of the blackboard and concludes: "Skill over seniority in every kid's classroom. That's fair, and that's my fight."

The final images show Gansler back in the corridor talking with a handful of young students.

The facts: Selecting teachers' classroom assignments — and defining the role of seniority — is managed largely at the local level, after being negotiated with the teachers' unions.

The state can enact broad reforms, but the governor's role is limited.

Gansler sought but did not win the endorsement of the Maryland State Education Association, the state's largest teachers' union. The union, which is backing Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, released a statement saying the ad amounts to "simplistically blaming our state's most challenged schools on teachers."

Sean Johnson, the union's executive director for political and legislative affairs, said Gansler "is arguing for undoing locally negotiated collective bargaining agreements."

Gansler spokeswoman Katie Hill said the campaign has made no such argument. The campaign hasn't released specific policy proposals related to the ad.

Hill said those proposals are forthcoming.

Analysis: School districts in Maryland continue to hire thousands of teachers each year, so prospective hires aren't broadly being turned away for lack of seniority. Seniority can provide benefits, including helping protect teachers in the event of layoffs.

Gansler is espousing a broad idea — getting the best teachers into the classroom — against which nobody would argue.

The question is: How much could he do about it if elected governor?

Maryland is already committed to a new teacher evaluation system that ties in student achievement. The teacher and principal evaluations are being implemented in the current school year.

Hill said the governor "sets the tone and expectations for education reform in the state."

If elected governor, she said, Gansler would appoint the members of the 12-person Maryland State Board of Education, "so the governor very much directs education policies and standards for the public education system."

jeff.barker@baltsun.com

twitter.com/sunjeffbarker

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